THE FIRE GOSPELS by Mike Magnuson


Email this review


An American gothic of a heartland holocaust and its effect on a bunch of pathetic antiheroes in a Wisconsin hamlet. Leaving the street-smart blend of hipness and dead-end helplessness of his debut novel, The Right Man for the Job (1997), Magnuson aims high but shoots low in a tale that tries to answer big questions about the roles of religion, faith, and hypocrisy in small-town America but uncovers mostly sexual frustration and a craven desire to escape responsibility. During a punishing summer drought that brings the inhabitants of McCutcheon, Wisconsin, to a spiritual low, TV weatherman Lucky Littlefield, an import from Georgia’s Bible Belt, inserts some of his old-time religion into his forecast—a —pray for rain— message that leads to massive group prayer sessions and good ratings for Littlefield’s station. Only Grady McCann, a hard-drinking maintenance man at a senior-citizens— home, seems aware that Littlefield’s feet are made of clay. Grady is also jealous because his beautiful, sexually repressed, Catholic wife, Erica, works as Littlefield’s personal assistant. On a booze-soaked Friday night at the Liquid Forest Bar, Grady gets a black eye after Kate, a flirtatious local college student, beats off his clumsy attempt at seduction. Kate calls Erica and announces that Grady is having an affair with her. Erica in turn punishes Grady by telling him she’s had an affair with Lucky, while, a few miles away, a stray meteorite ignites a field of dry grass and starts a fire that will destroy the town, drive Littlefield and Erica into madness, pair Grady with the vacillating Vietnam vet priest Father Mary, and ultimately bring a torrential rainfall that floods what hasn’t already been burnt. Magnuson’s characters exhibit the loopy, comic small-town eccentricities of Harry Crews’s Florida crackers. Too bad that, when they—re not ranting futilely about the existence of God, these ones are too preposterously vicious to redeem this tortured allegory. An ambitious, exasperating effort that finds more glory in destruction than it does in the human spirit.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-06-017595-8
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1998


NonfictionLUMMOX by Mike Magnuson
by Mike Magnuson
FictionTHE RIGHT MAN FOR THE JOB by Mike Magnuson
by Mike Magnuson