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Hey Nostradamus! [Hardcover]

Douglas Coupland
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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From Amazon

Considering some of his past subjects--slackers, dot-commers, Hollywood producers--a Columbine-like high school massacre seems like unusual territory for the usually glib Douglas Coupland. Anyone who has read Generation X or Miss Wyoming knows that dryly hip humour, not tragedy, is the Vancouver author's strong suit. But give the guy credit for twisting his material in strange, unexpected shapes. Coupland begins his seventh novel by transposing the Columbine incident to North Vancouver circa 1988. Narrated by one of the (murdered) victims, the first part of Hey Nostradamus! is affecting and emotional enough to almost make you forget you're reading a book by the same writer who so accurately characterized a generation in his first book, yet was unable to delineate a convincing character. As Cheryl Anway tells her story, the facts of the Delbrook Senior Secondary student's life--particularly her secret marriage to classmate Jason--provide a very human dimension to the bloody denouement that will change hundreds of lives forever. Rather than moving on to explore the conditions that led to the killings, though, Coupland shifts focus to nearly a dozen years after the event: first to Jason, still shattered by the death of his teenage bride, then to Jason's new girlfriend Heather, and finally to Reg, Jason's narrow-minded, religious father.

Hey Nostradamus! is a very odd book. It's among Coupland's most serious efforts, yet his intent is not entirely clear. Certainly there is no attempt at psychological insight into the killers' motives, and the most developed relationships--those between Jason and Cheryl, and Jason and Reg--seem to have little to do with each other. Nevertheless, it is a Douglas Coupland book, which means imaginatively strange plot developments--as when a psychic, claiming messages from the Beyond, tries to extort money from Heather--that compel the reader to see the story to its end. And clever turns of phrase, as usual, are never in short supply, but in Cheryl's section the fate we (and she) know awaits her gives them an added weight: "Math class was x's and y's and I felt trapped inside a repeating dream, staring at these two evil little letters who tormented me with their constant need to balance and be equal with each other," says (writes? transmits?) the deceased narrator. "They should just get married and form a new letter together and put an end to all the nonsense. And then they should have kids." --Shawn Conner

From Publishers Weekly

Coupland has long been a genre unto himself, and his latest novel fits the familiar template: earnest sentiment tempered by sardonic humor and sharp cultural observation. The book begins with a Columbine-like shooting at a Vancouver high school, viewed from the dual perspectives of seniors Jason Klaasen and Cheryl Anway. Jason and Cheryl have been secretly married for six weeks, and on the morning of the shooting, Cheryl tells Jason she is pregnant. Their situation is complicated by their startlingly deep religious faith (as Cheryl puts it, "I can't help but wonder if the other girls thought I used God as an excuse to hook up with Jason"), and their increasingly acrimonious relationship with a hard-core Christian group called Youth Alive! After Cheryl is gunned down, Jason manages to stop the shooters, killing one of them. He is first hailed as a hero, but media spin soon casts him in a different light. This is a promising beginning, but the novel unravels when Jason reappears as an adult and begins an odd, stilted relationship with Heather, a quirky court reporter. Jason disappears shortly after their relationship begins, and Heather turns to a psychic named Allison to track him down in a subplot that meanders and flags. Coupland's insight into the claustrophobic world of devout faith is impressive-one of his more unexpected characters is Jason's father, a pious, crusty villain who gradually morphs into a sympathetic figure-but when he extends his spiritual explorations to encompass psychic swindles, the novel loses its focus. Coupland has always been better at comic set pieces than consistent storytelling, and his lack of narrative control is particularly evident here. Noninitiates are unlikely to be seduced, but true believers will relish another plunge into Coupland-world.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Coupland, author of the cult favorite Generation X (1991), tells the story of a Columbine-like shooting from the perspectives of four narrators. First, there's Cheryl, killed in the shooting, who speaks from the afterlife. Then there's her boyfriend, Jason, who writes of living under a cloud of suspicion and surviving the cruelty of his radically Christian father, Reg. A woman whom Jason meets a decade after the shooting, Heather, narrates the third part, and the inflexible, evangelical Reg closes out the story. Coupland handles the diverse narrative voices impressively: Cheryl is endowed with a creepy mix of teen naivete and heavenly wisdom, and Reg writes with the complex syntax of a man who has read the Psalms one too many times. Unfortunately, Coupland's own ruminations on the theology of evil get in the way of his characters, draining the novel of much of its power. Still, there's enough here to interest Coupland's fans, who remain numerous even though his later books have not lived up to the promise of his early successes. John Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

Review

“Tempered with Coupland’s wry wit and acute observations, it adds up to an irresistible read.”
Maclean’s

“[One of] two of the most interesting novels of the year…. [It’s] inclusion would certainly have made the Giller’s or the Governor-General’s a more interesting list.”
—Noah Richler, National Post

“Fate is the psychological trigger in this often-hilarious novel, and Coupland knows when to trip the emotional safety catch.”
Elle Canada

“…[I]n Hey Nostradamus!, Coupland has fashioned his most serious and mature novel so far, mixing his youthful, exuberant prose with a certain compassion and restraint we haven’t seen from him before.…The leading literary voice of the most cynical generation lets it all out in a blaze of spirituality, terror, high comedy and soul-searching, and does it all in a way that is caring and clever, heart-breaking and hilarious, tough and tender. Hey Nostradamus! is not only Coupland’s best novel, but also one of the best of the year.”
Hamilton Spectator

“In Hey Nostradamus!, Coupland takes an insightful look at religion, loss and forgiveness and how everyone is always looking for, as he puts it, the “equation that makes it all equate.”
Calgary Herald

“…profoundly topical…[R]eligious angst has never been made so entertaining.”
National Post

“Coupland’s writing is brilliant.”
Canadian Press, Chronicle-Journal (Thunder Bay)

“ …[Coupland] gets us thinking about spirituality and the meaning of life, and no matter how bad things get, when you put the book down you can’t help but feel hope, which is a comfort.”
Georgia Straight

“…moving and tenderly beautiful….replete with Coupland’s breathtaking observations on consumer culture.”
Vancouver Sun

“The sharply observed immediacy of [Coupland’s] prose continues to impress.”
—Pat Donnelly, The Gazette

“In…Hey Nostradamus! Douglas Coupland, the Vancouver-based author of Generation X, tells the devastating story of a Columbine-like high-school massacre and explores questions of faith, hope, and good and evil.”
The Calgary Herald

“Issues of religion, faith, violence, alienation and trust are explored…. Coupland’s writing is brilliant.”
—Christina M. Hinke, The Examiner, The Daily News (Halifax), The Nugget, The Intelligencer, The Chronicle-Journal (Thunder Bay)

“Poignant, page-turning prose.”
The Coast

“Being the literary king of pop..., readers again are treated to the author’s sometimes bizarre style of mixing details of popular culture into some very deep thoughts about the meaning of life.”
The Toronto Sun

“This novel is a compelling read...it has unquestionable virtues and is well worth attention.”
The Telegram

Hey Nostradamus! has little to do with apocalyptic predictions and everything to do with searching for hope and redemption.”
Chatelaine

“Coupland’s eighth novel is a successful break from his norm and is a moving and memorable book.”
Imprint, University of Waterloo Student Newspaper

“Coupland displays his knack for magnifying the lives of ‘statistically average’ individuals and showing us the universality of their experiences, their dreams and their suffering...In Hey Nostradamus!, Coupland takes an insightful look at religion, loss and forgiveness and how everyone is always looking for, as he puts it, the ‘equation that makes it all equate.’”
The Calgary Herald

“Coupland has become a master of suspense and pacing. Hey Nostradamus! is a cannily crafted page-turner. There’s always the feeling that something is just around the bend: catharsis, comprehension, a good plot twist...The story is riveting, with just enough fucked-up touches to make it surreally believable...this is an excellent, skilfully written story.”
NOW Magazine

“Coupland is justly famous for his social satire. He has the ability to capture the ethos of a time through the most mundane details.”
FFWD Magazine

“The book lets the reader ponder deeply...the questioning of faith and belief systems that takes this novel to soaring heights. As Plato would see it, Douglas Coupland may be a seer of sorts — a truth-teller leading the way out of darkness.”
Tandem

UK reviews:

‘His best novel yet… an outstanding work that crackles in every sentence.’
Irish Independent

‘Coupland can really write — his prose, pithy and aphoristic, occasionally deepens into lyricism… Worth reading, if only for the superb drama of the school shootings and for the subtlety and charm of Cheryl’s narrative voice.’
New Statesman

‘It’s a leap sideways from the acid irony which has shaded some of Coupland’s earlier novels. Instead, from the pen of one of the coolest authors on the planet has come a work of suffusing humanity.’
Sunday Herald

Hey Nostradamus! is Coupland’s first novel to feature a full complement of three-dimensional characters… He seems to have reached a new plane of philosophical awareness… It is a measure of Coupland’s new-found objectivity that he grants Reg the final word. The masterful concluding section of the book presents a pitiful portrait of a wretched, broken figure who has come to realize that he terrorized others as a means of extinguishing the terror within himself… Somewhere deep in Coupland’s consciousness is a little door marked “greatness”. He may slip through it yet.’
Guardian

‘A moving novel… Coupland uses a multiplicity of voices to work out his sense of the joyous abundance and hopeless inadequacy of human existence, all refracted through the trauma of the massacre. This is a much deeper analysis of violence and social exclusion than the solemn commentary one usually reads about Columbine high school and similar events, and one which lingers in the mind long after the theorizing has dissipated, like a still photograph.’
TES

‘Coupland has come of age in Hey Nostradamus! — a controlled diamond-tip that drills to the heart of the human condition…. At turns harrowing and uplifting, it never ceases to engage the heart and mind, and leaves us safe in the knowledge that even through so much raw devastation, time does heal.’
Sunday Tribune (Dublin)

Hey Nostradamus! is a cathartic read, because Coupland is clearly not a writer prone to sitting alone in his ivory tower. His world is a fully interactive one that allows him as easily to slip into the skin of a pretty young girl as that of a stubborn old man.’
Financial Times

‘Drily witty at times, but also serious, involved and compassionate… the work of an author who has reached a new level of maturity, more skilled at crafting characters and restrained enough to apply his famous wit unobtrusively.’
Glasgow Herald

‘Four perspectives, one brilliant author’
Daily Mirror

‘Douglas Coupland has surely reserved his place at the top table of North American fiction.’
Independent on Sunday

‘The four narrators of Hey Nostradamus! are all searching for meaning. There is Cheryl, frozen in time at 17, a mixture of naivety and pragmatism; Jason, fated to conform to the label of “the boy who never got over it”; lonely, sensible Heather, who falls in love with Jason, and Jason’s tyrannical religious father Reg… A penetrating novel about faith, grief, love and the possibility of redemption, as readable and engaging as Coupland at his best.’
Scotsman

‘Tough, accomplished and subtle, it addresses all the big issues — God, suffering, miracles, family life, why bad things happen to good people — without ever becoming grandiose or pretentious. This is far too wise a book to offer answers, but it affirms that seeking them is a necessary part of our humanity.’
Independent

‘Beautiful and melancholic, like the sight of birds migrating at the end of summer, Hey Nostradamus! shows Coupland doing what he’s best at: creating characters who are questing but foredoomed, romantic but sad, all of them floundering between desire and requital.’
Daily Telegraph

‘As definitive as Generation X, and more affecting’
—Rod Liddle, Arena (UK)

“Douglas Coupland gets better and better … [Hey Nostrodamus’] final pages are the most powerful words Coupland has ever written.”
Uptown Magazine

Praise for All Families Are Psychotic:
“As rich as an ovenful of fresh-baked brownies and twice as nutty. . . . Everyone with a strange family -- that is, everyone with a family -- will laugh knowingly at the feuding, conducted with a maestro’s ear for dialogue and a deep understanding of humanity. Coupland, once the wise guy of Generation X, has become a wise man.”
People magazine

“It ...

From the Back Cover

“Tempered with Coupland’s wry wit and acute observations, it adds up to an irresistible read.”
Maclean’s

“[One of] two of the most interesting novels of the year…. [It’s] inclusion would certainly have made the Giller’s or the Governor-General’s a more interesting list.”
—Noah Richler, National Post

“Fate is the psychological trigger in this often-hilarious novel, and Coupland knows when to trip the emotional safety catch.”
Elle Canada

“…[I]n Hey Nostradamus!, Coupland has fashioned his most serious and mature novel so far, mixing his youthful, exuberant prose with a certain compassion and restraint we haven’t seen from him before.…The leading literary voice of the most cynical generation lets it all out in a blaze of spirituality, terror, high comedy and soul-searching, and does it all in a way that is caring and clever, heart-breaking and hilarious, tough and tender. Hey Nostradamus! is not only Coupland’s best novel, but also one of the best of the year.”
Hamilton Spectator

“In Hey Nostradamus!, Coupland takes an insightful look at religion, loss and forgiveness and how everyone is always looking for, as he puts it, the “equation that makes it all equate.”
Calgary Herald

“…profoundly topical…[R]eligious angst has never been made so entertaining.”
National Post

“Coupland’s writing is brilliant.”
Canadian Press, Chronicle-Journal (Thunder Bay)

“ …[Coupland] gets us thinking about spirituality and the meaning of life, and no matter how bad things get, when you put the book down you can’t help but feel hope, which is a comfort.”
Georgia Straight

“…moving and tenderly beautiful….replete with Coupland’s breathtaking observations on consumer culture.”
Vancouver Sun

“The sharply observed immediacy of [Coupland’s] prose continues to impress.”
—Pat Donnelly, The Gazette

“In…Hey Nostradamus! Douglas Coupland, the Vancouver-based author of Generation X, tells the devastating story of a Columbine-like high-school massacre and explores questions of faith, hope, and good and evil.”
The Calgary Herald

“Issues of religion, faith, violence, alienation and trust are explored…. Coupland’s writing is brilliant.”
—Christina M. Hinke, The Examiner, The Daily News (Halifax), The Nugget, The Intelligencer, The Chronicle-Journal (Thunder Bay)

“Poignant, page-turning prose.”
The Coast

“Being the literary king of pop..., readers again are treated to the author’s sometimes bizarre style of mixing details of popular culture into some very deep thoughts about the meaning of life.”
The Toronto Sun

“This novel is a compelling read...it has unquestionable virtues and is well worth attention.”
The Telegram

Hey Nostradamus! has little to do with apocalyptic predictions and everything to do with searching for hope and redemption.”
Chatelaine

“Coupland’s eighth novel is a successful break from his norm and is a moving and memorable book.”
Imprint, University of Waterloo Student Newspaper

“Coupland displays his knack for magnifying the lives of ‘statistically average’ individuals and showing us the universality of their experiences, their dreams and their suffering...In Hey Nostradamus!, Coupland takes an insightful look at religion, loss and forgiveness and how everyone is always looking for, as he puts it, the ‘equation that makes it all equate.’”
The Calgary Herald

“Coupland has become a master of suspense and pacing. Hey Nostradamus! is a cannily crafted page-turner. There’s always the feeling that something is just around the bend: catharsis, comprehension, a good plot twist...The story is riveting, with just enough fucked-up touches to make it surreally believable...this is an excellent, skilfully written story.”
NOW Magazine

“Coupland is justly famous for his social satire. He has the ability to capture the ethos of a time through the most mundane details.”
FFWD Magazine

“The book lets the reader ponder deeply...the questioning of faith and belief systems that takes this novel to soaring heights. As Plato would see it, Douglas Coupland may be a seer of sorts — a truth-teller leading the way out of darkness.”
Tandem

UK reviews:

‘His best novel yet… an outstanding work that crackles in every sentence.’
Irish Independent

‘Coupland can really write — his prose, pithy and aphoristic, occasionally deepens into lyricism… Worth reading, if only for the superb drama of the school shootings and for the subtlety and charm of Cheryl’s narrative voice.’
New Statesman

‘It’s a leap sideways from the acid irony which has shaded some of Coupland’s earlier novels. Instead, from the pen of one of the coolest authors on the planet has come a work of suffusing humanity.’
Sunday Herald

Hey Nostradamus! is Coupland’s first novel to feature a full complement of three-dimensional characters… He seems to have reached a new plane of philosophical awareness… It is a measure of Coupland’s new-found objectivity that he grants Reg the final word. The masterful concluding section of the book presents a pitiful portrait of a wretched, broken figure who has come to realize that he terrorized others as a means of extinguishing the terror within himself… Somewhere deep in Coupland’s consciousness is a little door marked “greatness”. He may slip through it yet.’
Guardian

‘A moving novel… Coupland uses a multiplicity of voices to work out his sense of the joyous abundance and hopeless inadequacy of human existence, all refracted through the trauma of the massacre. This is a much deeper analysis of violence and social exclusion than the solemn commentary one usually reads about Columbine high school and similar events, and one which lingers in the mind long after the theorizing has dissipated, like a still photograph.’
TES

‘Coupland has come of age in Hey Nostradamus! — a controlled diamond-tip that drills to the heart of the human condition…. At turns harrowing and uplifting, it never ceases to engage the heart and mind, and leaves us safe in the knowledge that even through so much raw devastation, time does heal.’
Sunday Tribune (Dublin)

Hey Nostradamus! is a cathartic read, because Coupland is clearly not a writer prone to sitting alone in his ivory tower. His world is a fully interactive one that allows him as easily to slip into the skin of a pretty young girl as that of a stubborn old man.’
Financial Times

‘Drily witty at times, but also serious, involved and compassionate… the work of an author who has reached a new level of maturity, more skilled at crafting characters and restrained enough to apply his famous wit unobtrusively.’
Glasgow Herald

‘Four perspectives, one brilliant author’
Daily Mirror

‘Douglas Coupland has surely reserved his place at the top table of North American fiction.’
Independent on Sunday

‘The four narrators of Hey Nostradamus! are all searching for meaning. There is Cheryl, frozen in time at 17, a mixture of naivety and pragmatism; Jason, fated to conform to the label of “the boy who never got over it”; lonely, sensible Heather, who falls in love with Jason, and Jason’s tyrannical religious father Reg… A penetrating novel about faith, grief, love and the possibility of redemption, as readable and engaging as Coupland at his best.’
Scotsman

‘Tough, accomplished and subtle, it addresses all the big issues — God, suffering, miracles, family life, why bad things happen to good people — without ever becoming grandiose or pretentious. This is far too wise a book to offer answers, but it affirms that seeking them is a necessary part of our humanity.’
Independent

‘Beautiful and melancholic, like the sight of birds migrating at the end of summer, Hey Nostradamus! shows Coupland doing what he’s best at: creating characters who are questing but foredoomed, romantic but sad, all of them floundering between desire and requital.’
Daily Telegraph

‘As definitive as Generation X, and more affecting’
—Rod Liddle, Arena (UK)

“Douglas Coupland gets better and better … [Hey Nostrodamus’] final pages are the most powerful words Coupland has ever written.”
Uptown Magazine

Praise for All Families Are Psychotic:
“As rich as an ovenful of fresh-baked brownies and twice as nutty. . . . Everyone with a strange family -- that is, everyone with a family -- will laugh knowingly at the feuding, conducted with a maestro’s ear for dialogue and a deep understanding of humanity. Coupland, once the wise guy of Generation X, has become a wise man.”
People magazine

“It seemed paradoxical that a writer so revered for his hipness resembles, in practice, nobody so much as Jane Austen.... In the resultant unravelling there isn't a boring page.”
The Literary Review

Praise for Miss Wyoming:
“The intelligence and humour of Coupland’s prose engages the mind while the unabashed yearning of his characters hooks the heart.”
Maclean’s

About the Author

On Douglas Coupland’s website, there is a photograph from his art installation, Tropical Birds (2003). The installation includes a scene based on the reports of how the cafeteria appeared to rescuers and officials after the massacre at Columbine High School: backpacks strewn across tables and the floor, chairs knocked over, lunches unfinished. The accompanying audio track plays the sounds of birdsong. The piece was born out of rescuers’ comments that the sound of cellphones and pagers ringing in student backpacks – “like birds chirping” – combined with the gush of sprinklers to seem almost surreally tropical. Of course, the horror is that the phones and pagers announced desperate parents trying to reach their children.

The 1999 Columbine massacre was one impetus for Hey Nostradamus!, as it and other events, such as the École Polytechnique shootings and the attacks of 9/11, prompted Coupland to look at how we collectively deal with horror, grief and faith. Even the epigraph for the book, a passage from 1 Corinthians, is taken from a headstone of one of the Columbine victims. Though he did not have a religious upbringing, Coupland considers himself a very religious person, and over the years has found himself more and more interested in exploring questions of God and belief in his work.

Coupland approached writing Hey Nostradamus! like he does all of his novels: as he would an artwork – for him, the media are the same. As he commented in one interview, “What I do know is that there are certain feelings you can create within yourself and within someone engaging with what you’ve done that you can only get from looking at an art object, that you can’t get from words, and vice versa. And I don’t make that many distinctions in my head, I don’t see them as being very different from each other. I entered writing with words quite literally being arts supplies as objects, through Jenny Holzer and text art, and then the text art became long-form fiction, so in my head, I think of the new book, or the new novel, as being an art exhibition, and it’s different from the books that came before it.”

In fact, Coupland originally set out to be a designer and artist, in the conventional sense. He graduated from the sculpture program at Vancouver’s Emily Carr College of Art and Design in 1984, then attended the European Design Institute in Milan, Italy, and the Hokkaido College of Art and Design in Sapporo, Japan. In 1986, he completed a two-year course in Japanese business science along with fine art and industrial design. After taking on writing projects over the years, Coupland happened upon fame as a novelist when his first book, Generation X (1991), achieved unexpected and meteoric success. Since then he has published fourteen books of fiction and non-fiction, including the novels Microserfs (1995), Miss Wyoming (1999) and All Families Are Psychotic (2001), and the bestselling cultural explorations City of Glass (2000), Souvenir of Canada (2002) and Souvenir of Canada 2 (2004). In all, his work has been translated into 22 languages and published in 30 countries.

Douglas Coupland writes because it is something he simply loves to do. “What I found over the years is that since 1991 we’ve been through massive cultural, social, technological changes, and the only thing that protects me or you or anyone, the only thing that can protect you in all this is figuring out what it is that you like to do, and then sticking with it. Because once you start to do what people expect you to do, or what your parents think you should do, or whoever in your life thinks you should do, you’re sunk.” However, when one interviewer commented on his seemingly prolific writing career, Coupland disagreed. “I’m not the least bit prolific,” he responded. “I look at people with hard jobs and kids, and to me they’re the ones who are fantastically prolific.”

Though he was born on a Canadian Armed Forces base in Baden-Söllingen, Germany, in 1961, Douglas Coupland has made the Vancouver area his home since the age of four, and can hardly imagine living anywhere else. He currently lives in West Vancouver, in a Ron Thon-designed house, where he works as a writer, designer and visual artist. His art has recently appeared in San Francisco, Milan and Vancouver, and will be featured in upcoming shows in Toronto, London and Montreal. He has won two Canadian National Awards for Excellence in Industrial Design, and Hey Nostradamus! was nominated for the 2004 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book (Canada & Caribbean) and won the Canadian Authors Association Award for Fiction.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Part One
1998: Cheryl


I believe that what separates humanity from everything else in this world -- spaghetti, binder paper, deep-sea creatures, edelweiss and Mount McKinley -- is that humanity alone has the capacity at any given moment to commit all possible sins. Even those of us who try to live a good and true life remain as far away from grace as the Hillside Strangler or any demon who ever tried to poison the village well. What happened that morning only confirms this.

It was a glorious fall morning. The sun burned a girly pink over the mountain ranges to the west, and the city had yet to generate its daily smog blanket. Before driving to school in my little white Chevette, I went into the living room and used my father's telescope to look down at the harbor, as smooth as mercury, and on its surface I could see the moon dimming over East Vancouver. And then I looked up into the real sky and saw the moon on the cusp of being over-powered by the sun.

My parents had already gone to work, and my brother, Chris, had left for swim team hours before. The house was quiet -- not even a clock ticking -- and as I opened the front door, I looked back and saw some gloves and unopened letters on the front hallway desk. Beyond them, on the living room's gold carpet, were some discount warehouse sofas and a lamp on a side table that we never used because the light bulb always popped when we switched it on. It was lovely, all that silence and all that calm order, and I thought how lucky I was to have had a good home. And then I turned and walked outside. I was already a bit late, but I was in no hurry.

Normally I used the garage door, but today I wanted a touch of formality. I had thought that this morning would be my last truly innocent glance at my childhood home -- not because of what really ended up happening, but because of another, smaller drama that was supposed to have unfolded.

I'm glad that the day was as quiet and as average as it was. The air was see-your-breath chilly, and the front lawn was crunchy with frost, as though each blade had been batter fried. The brilliant blue and black Steller's jays were raucous and clearly up to no good on the eaves trough, and because of the frost, the leaves on the Japanese maples had been converted into stained-glass shards. The world was unbearably pretty, and it continued being so all the way down the mountain to school. I felt slightly high because of the beauty, and the inside of my head tickled. I wondered if this is how artists go through life, with all of its sensations tickling their craniums like a peacock feather.

* * *
I was the last to park in the school's lot. That's always such an uneasy feeling no matter how together you think you are -- being the last person there, wherever there may be.

I was carrying four large binders and some textbooks, and when I tried shutting the Chevette's door, it wouldn't close properly. I tried slamming it with my hip, but that didn't work; it only made the books spray all over the pavement. But I didn't get upset.

Inside the school, classes were already in session and the hallways were as silent as the inside of my house, and I thought to myself, What a day for silence.

I needed to go to my locker before class, and as I was working my combination lock, Jason came up from behind.

"Boo."

"Jason -- don't do that. Why aren't you in class?"

"I saw you parking, so I left."

"You just walked out?"

"Forget about that, Miss Priss. Why were you being so weird on the phone last night?"

"I was being weird?"

"Jesus, Cheryl -- don't act like your airhead friends."

"Anything else?"

"Yes. You're my wife, so act like it."

"How should I be acting, then?"

"Cheryl, look: in God's eyes we're not two individuals, okay? We're one unit now. So if you dick around with me, then you're only dicking around with yourself."

And Jason was right. We were married -- had been for about six weeks at that point -- but we were the only ones who knew it.

* * *

I was late for school because I'd wanted everyone out of the house before I used a home pregnancy test. I was quite calm about it -- I was a married woman, and shame wasn't a factor. My period was three weeks late, and facts were facts.

Instead of the downstairs bathroom I shared with my brother, I used the guest bathroom upstairs. The guest bathroom felt one notch more medical, one notch less tinged by personal history -- less accusatory, to be honest. And the olive fixtures and foil wallpaper patterned with brown bamboo looked swampy and dank when compared to the test's scientific white-and-blue box. And there's not much more to say, except that fifteen minutes later I was officially pregnant and I was late for math class.

* * *

"Jesus, Cheryl . . ."

"Jason, don't curse. You can swear, but don't curse."

"Pregnant?"

I was quiet.

"You're sure?"

"I'm late for math class. Aren't you even happy?"

A student walked by, maybe en route to see the principal.

Jason squinted like he had dust in his eyes. "Yeah -- well, of course -- sure I am."

I said, "Let's talk about it at homeroom break."

"I can't. I'm helping Coach do setup for the Junior A team. I promised him ages ago. Lunchtime then. In the cafeteria."

I kissed him on his forehead. It was soft, like antlers I'd once touched on a petting zoo buck. "Okay. I'll see you there."

He kissed me in return and I went to math class.

* * *

I was on the yearbook staff, so I can be precise here. Delbrook Senior Secondary is a school of 1,106 students located about a five-minute walk north of the Trans-Canada Highway, up the algae-green slope of Vancouver's North Shore. It opened in the fall of 1962, and by 1988, my senior year, its graduates numbered about thirty-four thousand. During high school, most of them were nice enough kids who'd mow lawns and baby-sit and get drunk on Friday nights and maybe wreck a car or smash a fist through a basement wall, not even knowing why they'd done it, only that it had to happen. Most of them grew up in rectangular postwar homes that by 1988 were called tear-downs by the local real estate agents. Nice lots. Nice trees and vines. Nice views.

As far as I could tell, Jason and I were the only married students ever to have attended Delbrook. It wasn't a neighborhood that married young. It was neither religious nor irreligious, although back in eleventh-grade English class I did a tally of the twenty-six students therein: five abortions, three dope dealers, two total sluts, and one perpetual juvenile delinquent. I think that's what softened me up for conversion: I didn't want to inhabit that kind of moral world. Was I a snob? Was I a hypocrite? And who was I to even judge? Truth be told, I wanted everything those kids had, but I wanted it by playing the game correctly. This meant legally and religiously and -- this is the part that was maybe wrong -- I wanted to outsmart the world. I had, and continue to have, a nagging suspicion that I used the system simply to get what I wanted. Religion included. Does that cancel out whatever goodness I might have inside me?

Jason was right: Miss Priss.

From AudioFile

Some books seem meant to be read aloud. Coupland's is one. HEY NOSTRADAMUS! cycles through four narrations by distinctly different characters. Well acted and well cast, the book journeys through the minds of high school lovers caught in a Columbine-style crossfire and its shattering aftermath: Cheryl, speaking from beyond the grave; Jason, her secret spouse and classmate; Heather, who loves the adult Jason with desperate abandon; and Reg, Jason's fundamentalist and fundamentally mad father. We catapult forward in time and meander through lives and experiences marred by shock, psychic torture, and deception. A tone of religious fervor underlies each character's voice, as the story moves from obsession to apathy to superstition and, ultimately, epiphany. D.J.B. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2003, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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