Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Centuries of June by Keith Donohue

Face down on the bathroom floor after "a conk on the skull," Jack, the narrator of Donohue's unconventional latest (after Angels of Destruction), embarks on an epic and darkly funny journey through time and space without traveling much beyond his own bathroom. Visited by seven ghostly women, and eventually his wife, Jack stands in for disappointing men throughout history as each of the phantom visitors tells him her life story. From Dolly, the Tlingit woman who marries a shape-shifting bear, to Alice, who winds up on the wrong end of the Salem witch trials, and Bunny, a New York City housewife whose search for love goes very wrong, the women each accuse Jack, tell their story, and then fade into a chorus with the others. When Jack finally hears out his own wife, the reason for the night's events—including stopped clocks, talking cats, and what could be the ghost of Samuel Beckett—becomes clear.

This has got to be one of the strangest books I have ever read.  Nonetheless, it is very addictive.  It opens with "Jack" watching his blood flow onto the bathroom tiles.  He's hit his head with half of his naked body in the bathroom and half in the hallway.  He momentarily thinks how regretful he would be if someone found him in his current situation.  His pain ebbs and that is when his departed father appears sitting on the edge of the bathtub.

Jack immediately feels better and is able to stand.  He puts on a robe and goes to fetch his dad a shot of whiskey. But on his return to the bathroom, with the whiskey, he pauses at his bedroom and peeks in.  Eight naked women are sleeping in his bed.   But then one of the women appear behind him in the bathroom, and proceeds to tell him her life story.  And the stories continue as each woman appears in the bathroom.  Each woman is from a different point in time and some of them are mythical.  But what of Jack? Will he wake up? Who hit him on the head? Why?

Centuries of June is a unique tale that will keep the reader entranced.  Crude language and sexual situations are intermixed sporadically, but humor outshines it.  The talking cat, Harpo, lightens any situation the protagonist finds himself in.  The character building is unique and I can honestly say that Keith Donohue has one powerful imagination.  The worlds he builds for each woman is detailed and easily imagined.  A compelling novel sure to entertain!

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The old grey donkey, Eeyore stood by himself in a thistly corner of the Forest, his front feet well apart, his head on one side, and thought about things. Sometimes he thought sadly to himself, "Why?" and sometimes he thought, "Wherefore?" and sometimes he thought, "Inasmuch as which?" and sometimes he didn't quite know what he was thinking about.

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