Wise-ass narrator Luke Hunter is given to premonitions about death—some true, some false—and eventually has what he might call a spiritual-like epiphany.
Proulx is pitch-perfect in her portrayal of the potty-mouthed, weed-smoking, angst-ridden adolescent narrator. The novel is framed by death scenes. The first is Stan’s, a golden boy whose death Luke eerily and unaccountably foresaw. The last takes place at the cemetery where Stan is buried, where Luke reconciles himself to the difficulties of being fallible, sensitive and human. In between lies the story of Luke’s presentiments about the death of friends and acquaintances, Luke’s clumsy attempts to get closer to Stan’s girlfriend (who mysteriously bumps into him at a Red Hot Chili Peppers concert—another supernatural sign?) and the attempt of Pastor Ted to “wring Satan” out of Luke. Growing up in the spiritless town of Stokum, Mich., Luke spends much of his time monosyllabically avoiding his parents and especially his Uncle Mick, reputed to have an extrasensory power similar to Luke’s. At the core of the narrative is Luke’s awkward coming-of-age story, one complicated in his case by a gift—or curse—he can’t control. The essence of Luke’s world is his status as a loner and self-defined loser. Spiritual inquiries hold no interest for him. (When queried about what he has faith in, Luke’s first thought is the advertising logo “Put Your Faith in Foster’s.”) Eventually, however, he develops a more serious perspective on ultimate mysteries through his friend Fang and through Stan’s girlfriend, the aptly named Faith. By the end of the novel, by his own admission, he “even [manages] to figure a couple things out. One. Yeah, everyone is going to die. But first, we get to live.” He also realizes that Stan was admirable and universally loved because he “ ‘was cool, funny, smart…He wasn’t afraid of being good.’ ”
A debut novel that’s sharp, edgy and slightly skewed—all qualities Luke consummately embodies.