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THE NEXT QUEEN OF HEAVEN by Gregory Maguire

THE NEXT QUEEN OF HEAVEN

By Gregory Maguire

Pub Date: Oct. 5th, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-06-199779-2
Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

A fitfully funny and adventurous experiment from the author of Wicked (1995).

This strangely compelling religious farce originated much differently than the fantasy novels that characterize the work of Boston-based novelist Maguire (A Lion Among Men, 2008, etc.). This peculiar novel was originally born as a limited-edition paperback offered by Concord Free Press, the publisher that gives books away for free. Now Harper has given a second lease on life to this familial dramedy about a rebellious daughter, her devoutly religious mother and the bump on the head that turns their small town into a bit of a circus. Maguire’s main prism on small-town life in Thebes, N.Y., is Tabitha Scales, a teenaged girl with a reputation as the town slut. In fact, she appears so regularly in the town jail that the police have let her decorate her own cell. “Thebes was so lame it might as well be amputated,” she muses. Her mother is the long-suffering Leontina Scales, “a middle-aged pillar of the Radical Radiant Pentecostals (Also Republican, with some standards).” But things take a turn when a statue of Our Lady with a Chip on Her Shoulder falls over, bashing Leontina upside the skull and causing her to erupt in foul-mouthed tongues, espousing things like “Am of God, who takes away the sins of the world. So you: shut up.” It seems that everyone in town is concerned with God’s plans. Meanwhile, young, gay choir director Jeremy Carr is dealing with his own struggles, which include mourning a broken love affair with Willem Handelaers. Meanwhile, the Radical Radiants threaten war with the local Catholic Church.

Certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, but an unfamiliar treat for those who like their comedy laced with a touch of satire.