THE SKOOK by J. P. Miller

THE SKOOK

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Spanish Ulysses (""Span"") Barrman, 49, a small-time businessman and ex-teacher in the Delaware Valley area circa 1971, is vaguely discontented--for good reason: after an ugly divorce he's estranged from his two daughters (not to mention his ex-wife, ""the Cow""); he's still only half-communicating with his rough father, dying of cancer; and his sexy new wife Yovi (cause of the divorce) is regularly, if semi-discreetly, unfaithful. Then a devil-worshipping motorcycle gang begins to harass Span--whose birthdate makes him the ideal human-sacrifice for the cult's Satanic rituals. And when Span flees from them into a hidden river cave, the ""Space Angels"" dynamite a whole hill on the riverbank--apparently killing Span via burialalive. In fact, Yovi's slimy lover, Assistant D.A. Jerry Odessa, promptly figures a way (involving blackmail) to turn Span's demise into a gold-mine--while the widow reacts with genuine, unexpectedly intense grief. But. . . Span is actually alive, waking up after 15 unconscious days inside that underground cave! Furthermore, the injured, starving survivor manages to go on surviving there for six months--with guidance from ""The Skook."" Who or what is The Skook? Well, it looks like E.T., it sounds like Carlos Castaneda, and it might just be a hallucination. (Span invented ""Skook"" character in long-ago bedtime stories for his daughters.) But, in any case thanks to scolding/inspirational lectures from The Skook, Span ponders ""the Perfume of Purity,"" overcomes fear-of-death, captures a sea-monster, talks to God, accepts Yovi s free sexuality, and reassesses his existence. (Says The Skook: ""You needed me because you wanted to confide in me that you were inconsequential. . . . If you were strong enough to value your accomplishments without needing outside confirmation you would place yourself as part of The Great I Am."") And when Span eventually turns up half-dead back home, Yovi undergoes a similar spiritual rebirth--refusing to help Jerry kill Span, swearing lifelong fidelity, nursing Span back to health, but agreeing to keep his non-death a secret. So ultimately it will be Span and Yovi vs. foul Jerry in a nautical death-duel--with the good guys miraculously rescued by. . . The Skook, of course, whom Yovi now sees as clearly as Span did in the cave. A bizarre attempt to blend James M. Cain and Jonathan Livingston Seagull--half gritty, half goopy, with a strong little melodrama whimsied and uplifted to death by. . . The Skook.

Pub Date: Aug. 27th, 1984
Publisher: Warner