Book Review | Hey Nostradamus!

Hey Nostradamus Douglas Coupland

Goodreads synopsis:

GOD IS NOWHERE GOD IS NOW HERE
GOD IS NOWHERE GOD IS NOW HERE

Using the voices of four characters deeply affected by a high-school shooting, though in remarkably different ways, Douglas Coupland explores the lingering aftermath of one horrifying event, and questions what it means to come through grief – and to survive.

This book broke my heart. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly how – was it reading about a high school massacre that did it? Or watching one of the survivors struggle through his adult life dealing with the aftermath the reason? Was it because I found it difficult to watch a well-meaning (though however delusional) father be cast off by his family due to his uncompromisingly religious yet hypocritical views?

I guess the answer is all of the above. Whatever the specific reason was, this four-part book affected me more than I initially thought it would.

The four parts are narrated by Cheryl, Jason, Heather, and Reg respectively. They are all told from the narrators’ perspective, and this really helps draw the readers into the story. Throughout the book, the characters grapple with religion: Cheryl has recently converted; Jason grew up in a religious and sometimes frustrating household; Heather is not so tied to the religious plot but her beliefs are tested when she meets a psychic; and Reg thinks he’s doing the best for himself and his family by being extremely devout only to have them shun and reject him. The novel is not so concerned with telling the readers what’s right and what’s wrong; instead, it’s a platform for readers to understand that beliefs are beliefs and it’s impossible to be perfect and know the full “truth”.

I really enjoyed this book overall. I like that Coupland decided to focus more on the aftermath of the massacre than on the event itself. The process of handling a tragedy is a much more universal and relatable subject for readers and, if I’m being honest, I’m often wary of books that chronicle tragedies as they often come off as exploitative. I felt like this book was well-handled and rose above being just a book about a high school massacre as the event was merely a catalyst for everything else to happen. Ultimately, Hey Nostradamus! is about beliefs, what is real and what isn’t, and how we can always get close but never really know the truth.

Verdict: A strong book with a point of view that doesn’t come off as preachy or judgemental. A heart-wrenching book that deals with difficult issues.
Read if: You are drawn to stories of survival, books that deal with the aftermath of tragedies, and intellectually stimulating discussions.

Have you read Douglas Coupland’s Hey Nostradamus!? Are there any similar stories that I should check out? I would love to hear from you!

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6 thoughts on “Book Review | Hey Nostradamus!

    • kmn04books says:

      I think I saw a review on it from another blog! I was really interested to see how he treated the subject and I’m really glad he handled it in a tasteful way. I haven’t read All Families Are Psychotic; the previous book I read by him was The Gum Thief!

  1. Erin says:

    This is my favourite book! I read it in high school and the messages (about religion, adulthood, survival) really resonated with me. You’re review of this book is spot on and I plan on reading some of his other books in the future.

    • Karen says:

      Aw, thanks, Erin! Have you read The Gum Thief? I read it during university but I think I underappreciated it. Would definitely try another one by him!

      • Erin says:

        I haven’t read The Gum Thief yet – someday… maybe 2016. I have about five or six of his books sitting on my shelf waiting to be read but for some reason I keep going back to Hey Nostradamus!

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