I'm an inveterate page-turner, and love the comfort of a good book in my warm upstairs nest. I'm an active reader, who prefers to immerse herself in the tale at hand, and block out the rest of the world. I often get so involved in the story that I actually react ~ out loud.
Which is why I've been tee-heeing ~ and, at times downright cackling ~ of late, while turning the pages of Gregory Maguire's The Next Queen of Heaven.
Our heroine is Tabitha Scales, a potty-mouthed, sexed-up, blissed-out high school vamp, who cares much more about her social life than for her family or her studies. Her mom, Leontina, is a thrice-divorced holy-roller who wants so desperately to belong, but really just hovers around the fringes of her congregation.
Maguire, who wrote the bestseller-to-Broadway blockbuster, Wicked, is no stranger to satire. His most recent silly social commentary takes place this time in the Upstate New York town of Thebes. But unlike the great, walled city-state of Greek mythology, this dreary place has been turned topsy-turvy. Leontina gets bopped in the head by a heavy plastic religious tchotchke. And everything in the cold, dark town goes straight to hell.
Non-believers, fundamentalists, Catholics, gays and nuns frolic throughout Maguire's 368 pages. Members of the Cliffs of Zion Radical Radiant Pentecostal Fellowship cavort with the congregants at Our Lady of Something or Other next door. The gay choir director forms a non-ecclesiastical bond with Sister Coyne and her merry band of dessicated nuns. In the meantime, Tabitha and her odd younger brothers are busy putting the fun back into dysfunctional.
I chuckled. I snorted. I smirked. I whooped all the way through Maguire's treatise on the innate insecurities and prejudices that reside within us all. His premise is ridiculous, which makes infinitely more sense than it should. His characters are drawn so far outside the lines that they resemble the ridiculous caricatures whom we see daily, both on Fox News and in the frozen food aisle. And Maguire's round-about construction just adds to the merriment.
Into all this mess, a little child is born. Seriously. A perfect punctuation to a fantastically allegorical tale.
Amen, Brother Maguire!