THE LAST TIME I DIED by Joe Nelms

THE LAST TIME I DIED

KIRKUS REVIEW

Nelms debuts with a dark psychological drama tracing Christian Franco’s spiral into madness.

Christian’s the son of a New York cop and a homemaker, strictly middle-class borough folk. Then Christian’s father kills his mother. Despite sloppy foster care and sexual abuse, Christian won't be denied, and so it’s law school honors and the fast track at a prestigious law firm. There’s money, major partner mentoring and then marriage to beautiful, irresistible Lisa. Life’s perfect, except that Christian’s a tightened-down pressure cooker fueled by rage and suppressed memories of his mother’s murder. Lisa leaves. Christian self-medicates with alcohol and drugs, neglects work and instigates fights: "There was nothing like a good beat down to take the edge off." Soon, he’s out of second chances, fired after the night he’s beaten almost to death and narrowly revived. Unconscious, Christian experienced what he calls "The White...bright and clean and perfect...yet soothing and comfortable," with flashes of suppressed childhood traumas on display. After Christian awakens, he sketches memories in manic episodes—dozens of drawings. Christian’s rage-fueled quest to know the truth of his childhood comes in strobe-light snapshot chapters, flashes of manic action much like Chuck Palahniuk’s transgressional narratives. Christian becomes obsessed with dying, confronting "The White" and then being revived again. Christian soon meets Dr. Cordoba, defrocked physician/researcher working part time treating injured fighting dogs. Christian persuades her to kill and then revive him, which she does in her hidden laboratory, but the cost she exacts is demented. Nelms writes in first person, with sardonic, distanced second-person chapters scattered about, with an intensity and focus that will keep the reader wondering. Christian—"I am an amorphous id in jeans and a tee shirt moving quickly through structures of glass and marble with a single focus"—isn’t a sympathetic character, but he’s the engine of the demented narrative.

Allegories and symbolism—Christian dying, being revived—perhaps should be taken as ironic in this postmodern breakdown saga.

Pub Date: Jan. 18th, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-4405-7180-0
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Tyrus Books
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 2013




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