Townsend (Gayrabian Nights, 2014, etc.) uses the apocalypse as a window into the secret lives of Mormons in this satirical novel.
In the last week, America has crumbled into an apocalypse of biological and nuclear warfare. Luckily, Mormons Gavin and Nellie have been stockpiling nonperishables. As their formerly tightknit community of Hurricane, Utah, descends into an orgy of violence and cannibalism, Gavin and Nellie can think of nothing better to do than sit around and wait for the Second Coming. Gavin isn’t terribly bothered by the whole thing: “Gavin couldn’t wait for the Millennium to start. Maybe then, life would finally be worth living. It certainly hadn’t been worth it the first fifty-seven years of his life.” Nellie encourages Gavin to shoot anyone that comes to the door, but he ends up letting people in—traumatized neighbors who require shelter and food. Because suicide is out of the question (it’s a sin), the group passes the time by telling each other stories: an obese woman contemplates divorces after discovering her husband masturbating; a teacher encourages a group of girls to write letters to themselves in the future; a woman uses her faith to justify all the tragedies that she encounters, including running over a pet dog. As the stories unfold, the assembled Mormons learn that their neighbors’ beliefs are more complex (and far less orthodox) than they previously supposed. Townsend, a confident and practiced storyteller, skewers the hypocrisies and eccentricities of his characters with precision and affection. The outlandish framing narrative is the most consistent source of shock and humor, but the stories do much to ground the reader in the world—or former world—of the characters. The extent to which some are still so offended by sex and sin, even as life literally burns around them, is played for genuine laughs. Townsend’s messages are at times heavy-handed, and readers who come to the novel already critical of religion will find their opinions confirmed. But the good-natured gallows humor of the author’s project should keep his audience committed to seeing it through to its conclusion.
A funny, charming tale about a group of Mormons facing the end of the world.