The Next Queen of Heaven takes that to a new level because this one has nothing to do with fantasy or fairy tales or even really imagination. It's starkly real and painful and tragic with only the human spirit shining through.
First, let me tell you something that the summary on the back keeps secret for some reason -- one of the two narratives in this book is about a gay man and his friends. I'm not sure why this is masked but I really wasn't expecting it at all. Anyway, this novel alternates between two stories that happen simultaneously in the small New England town of Thebes. Tabitha Scales is a slightly dim-witted but beautiful delinquent teen who is forced to grow up after her born-again mother becomes incapacitated by a falling statue of the Virgin Mary in the basement of the local Catholic church. Jeremy Carr is the gay choir director of that Catholic church. He is nursing a years old broken heart and dealing with a close friend's terminal AIDS struggle. The reader is dragged through these messy and mostly unrelated narratives that depict a few short months of heartbreak and transformation, all against the backdrop of religion and sexuality.
With a bit of humor and loads more humanity, Maguire brings us into the lives of these seemingly average small-town residents. The most fascinating characters (and certainly the most lovable) are the unexpected Sisters of the Sorrowful Mysteries -- a group of lonely, elderly nuns in a local convent. In fact, there is so much of the unexpected in this novel that I don't want to say any more about the plot or characters. The strength of this story is in the way that it unfolds and develops. It is quite irreverent and sometimes profane and most of the characters are only mildly likable at best. And yet it is a compelling story that sucked me in, educated me and left me exhausted but thoughtful at the end.
In awe of the author,
Support our site and buy The Next Queen of Heaven on Amazon or find it at your local library. We received a copy for review from the LTER program.