In West’s debut supernatural drama, a man with extraordinary abilities fears a palm reader’s prediction of doom.
Although Texas high school English teacher Joseph Hawking isn’t superhuman, he is capable of things that others aren’t. He has heightened senses of sight and hearing, and he can play pieces of music perfectly after hearing them once. But he uses these abilities furtively, certain that he would become a “test case” if the world knew about them. When he gives an English lecture that addresses Darwinism (a curriculum departure), students’ parents protest, and the ensuing controversy sparks media interest. He agrees to give an interview to TV personality David Snow, a childhood friend with whom he hasn’t spoken in years. A long time ago, Joseph received a prediction from a palm reader, who forecast a shared tragedy involving Joseph, David, and David’s sister Carolyn (Joseph’s ex-lover). The prophecy implied that he would meet the same fate as his uncle, who died at 29—Joseph’s current age. Complicating matters is the Bedroom Killer, an unidentified serial murderer whose latest victim has a connection to David, making him a person of interest. Joseph keeps his eye out for clues to the foretold tragedy, hoping to prevent it. Despite dabbling in superpowers, West’s story primarily deals in melodrama, which can be blistering at times, as when Joseph learns a shocking family secret or loses someone to a shooter on a college campus. The drama can also be profound, as in a surreal scene of 13-year-old Joseph having a conversation with God, noting that “some things don’t make sense.” The author treats his protagonist’s abilities pragmatically and uses them only in moderation, to good effect. Original and classic poetry intermittently appears over the course of the story, but West’s prose is already poetic on its own: “he gazed aimlessly into the hazy backyard landscape of redbud, spider lilies, beautyberry, and others he hadn’t bothered to learn yet.”
A potent tale of a man with intriguing powers and relatable misfortunes.