Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Diviners

The Diviners Libba Bray

At a party gone boring, restless flappers unknowingly raise a once-buried evil. In Ohio, a careless Evie reveals something she shouldn't and is sent to live with her Uncle Will in New York City until the scandal dies down. In New York, Memphis runs numbers by day and writes poetry by night. He used to be a healer, but lost the ability when it mattered most of all. Theta is a glamourous Ziegfried girl just trying to forget. Mabel's parents are communist organizers but all she wants is to catch the eye of Jericho, Uncle Will's assistant at the Museum of American Folklore, Superstition and the Occult, aka the Museum of the Creepy Crawlies.

It's 1926 and their stories collide as a gruesome serial murder strikes the city. Uncle Will is called in to aid the investigation as the murders are steeped in the occult. Evie knows her supernatural powers can help, but she'd rather drink and party to forget that she even has them. The investigation leads them to the Great Awakening, WWI, and beyond our world as commets and dreams are portents of things to come...

Sprawling and epic, this is paranormal/horror/historical fiction. It lacks the zany humor of Going Bovine or Beauty Queens but that's ok, because it would be really out of place here! The action and focus frequently shifts between characters and storylines, interspersed with set and mood pieces to paint a picture of the city, the country, and the time period. It's dark and atmospheric. I love how even though it's historical fiction, it's also haunted (literally and metaphorially) by history, especially Sprititualism and the Great Awakening movements, both of which appear in US history classes but can be hard to make sense of in a broad survey class setting. I loved the miltary mesting aspect. We tend to see army conspiracies and top secret projects taking place in WWII, but not WWI.*

Now the immediate storyline wraps up by the end of the book, but it's also very very very much the first in a series. Lots of smaller plots become larger questions that are no where near answered by the end. In the hands of a less skilled author, this entire project would be a hot mess, but Libba Bray makes it brilliant and spooky.

*This makes sens because WWII saw things like the Holocaust, Unit 731, Enigma, and the Manhattan Project. Also, the post-WWII era saw the space age and TV and was such a period of massive change that military secrets in the recent war made more sense, storytelling wise. It was tapping into a different psyche.)

ARC Provided by... the publisher, at ALA.

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