Friday, July 8, 2016

Review of Epiphany Jones by Michael Grothaus (Orenda Books, 2016)

After the deaths of his sister to leukaemia and his father in a car crash in which he was a passenger Jerry Dresden has suffered from depression and psychotic hallucinations and is addicted to celebrity porn.  Working at a job he hates in the Chicago Art Institute he is accused of murdering a colleague and stealing a priceless Van Gogh.  Forced on the run he travels to Mexico with Epiphany Jones, an equally damaged woman who believes that voice she can hear are angels directing and protecting her.  Epiphany claims to have video footage that shows Jerry is innocent, but to receive it he first has to help her track down her daughter who is ensnared in the hellhole of sex-trafficking where the clients are part of Hollywood’s elite.  Jerry is a reluctant participant in Epiphany’s quest, but it might just be a mission that gets his own life back on track.

Epiphany Jones is a rollercoaster of a read as its two principle characters, Jerry Dresden and Epiphany Jones take a long-distance journey, trying to track down the latter’s daughter, leaving in their wake a trail of violence.  Both Jerry and Epiphany are mentally damaged.  While Jerry has suffered a couple of traumatic events and sees and has relationships with imaginary people, Epiphany has lived through the hell of sex trafficking and talks to God’s Angels.  Grothaus immerses the reader in their worlds and psychoses, their fraught relationship, their struggles, despair and hopes as they undertake their quest and navigate a criminal underground.  It’s certainly a hard hitting tale that pulls few punches and there’s barely a likely character throughout.  I found it quite a difficult book to get into at the start, and the narrative was a bit episodic and uneven.  The more the tale progressed the more it seemed to gain coherence as it moved towards the denouement.  I’ve been umming and ahhing about what rating to give the book.  It’s difficult in the sense of I can see the merits of the tale and appreciate its ambition and affective punch, but it’s not a story I particularly enjoyed reading, not because of the subject matter of sex trafficking and mental illness, but rather I just never really felt connected or invested in the characters or narrative.

1 comment:

Anonymous-9 said...

A thoughful review, Rob, thank you. I'm just checking in to say hello.
Best regards!