Successful as neobiblical allegory; as a novel, not so much.


At the dawn of the Trumpocalypse, a young couple embarks on a divine cross-country mission.

Eva and Murphy, who live in Miami and subsist on the gig economy, receive orders from Yahweh to hit the road and let America know who is Lord. Eva is chosen as the prophet just as she and Murphy are pondering whether to have a baby. After a stop at Eva’s ancestral fixer-upper, where her Uncle Orson imparts folksy wisdom and racing tips, they pick up a pet, “Fluffy 2,” who is either a cat, a dog, or a small goat, no one is sure which. A homeless woman inspires them with a brilliant scheme to develop “Mount Trashmore” resorts (since landfill mounds will, in much of the country, become shorefront property after sea levels rise). The postmodern picaresque continues as Eva evangelizes at lectures, billionaire retreats, and other venues representing the venality of American mores and the kitschiness of its culture. Her negotiated fee from Yahweh is $100 million to fund operation Mount Trashmore. The only hitch is that she and Murphy must also build a temple to the exact specifications of Solomon’s. As the couple and their ambiguous pet journey on, Thier avails himself of all opportunities to preach his own gospel of What Went Wrong through history, citing myriad not-so-fun facts such as that "there were strict gun control laws in the Wild West” and that one of the reasons Haiti is perennially impoverished is that after the island’s slaves freed themselves they owed reparations to their former slave owners that they never paid. As Eva proclaims the Lord, it is Murphy who launches jeremiads against the circumstances that made America not so great. “How can we accept that the world is the way it is?” is the novel’s overriding inquiry. Thier’s prodigious facility with language and penchant for stinging irony are evident. However, even metafiction has one basic requirement—to evoke pity and fear for the human predicament—and this is where the “narrow bridge” collapses.

Successful as neobiblical allegory; as a novel, not so much.

Pub Date: July 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63557-141-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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This is good Hemingway. It has some of the tenderness of A Farewell to Arms and some of its amazing power to make one feel inside the picture of a nation at war, of the people experiencing war shorn of its glamor, of the emotions that the effects of war — rather than war itself — arouse. But in style and tempo and impact, there is greater resemblance to The Sun Also Rises. Implicit in the characters and the story is the whole tragic lesson of Spain's Civil War, proving ground for today's holocaust, and carrying in its small compass, the contradictions, the human frailties, the heroism and idealism and shortcomings. In retrospect the thread of the story itself is slight. Three days, during which time a young American, a professor who has taken his Sabbatical year from the University of Montana to play his part in the struggle for Loyalist Spain and democracy. He is sent to a guerilla camp of partisans within the Fascist lines to blow up a strategic bridge. His is a complex problem in humanity, a group of undisciplined, unorganized natives, emotionally geared to go their own way, while he has a job that demands unreasoning, unwavering obedience. He falls in love with a lovely refugee girl, escaping the terrors of a fascist imprisonment, and their romance is sharply etched against a gruesome background. It is a searing book; Hemingway has done more to dramatize the Spanish War than any amount of abstract declamation. Yet he has done it through revealing the pettinesses, the indignities, the jealousies, the cruelties on both sides, never glorifying simply presenting starkly the belief in the principles for which these people fought a hopeless war, to give the rest of the world an interval to prepare. There is something of the implacable logic of Verdun in the telling. It's not a book for the thin-skinned; it has more than its fill of obscenities and the style is clipped and almost too elliptical for clarity at times. But it is a book that repays one for bleak moments of unpleasantness.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1940

ISBN: 0684803356

Page Count: 484

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1940

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