Can an atheist be saved? The New York Times bestselling author of Crank and Tricks explores the highly charged landscapes of faith and forgiveness with brilliant sensitivity and emotional resonance.
“There is no God, no benevolent ruler of the earth, no omnipotent grand poobah of countless universes. Because if there was…my little brother would still be fishing or playing basketball instead of fertilizing cemetery vegetation.”
Matthew Turner doesn’t have faith in anything.
Not in family—his is a shambles after his younger brother was bullied into suicide. Not in so-called friends who turn their backs when things get tough. Not in some all-powerful creator who lets too much bad stuff happen. And certainly not in some “It Gets Better” psychobabble.
No matter what his girlfriend Hayden says about faith and forgiveness, there’s no way Matt’s letting go of blame. He’s decided to “live large and go out with a huge bang,” and whatever happens happens. But when a horrific event plunges Matt into a dark, silent place, he hears a rumble…a rumble that wakes him up, calling everything he’s ever disbelieved into question.
That’s what people keep telling me.
Faith that things will get better. Faith
that bad things happen for a reason.
Implicit in that ridiculous statement
is the hand of some extraterrestrial
magician. Some all-powerful creator
which, if his faithful want to be totally
frank about it, would also make him/her/it
an omnipotent destroyer. Because if
some God carefully sows each seed
of life, he is also flint for the relentless
sun beating down upon his crops until
they wither into dust. Zygotes to ashes
or some other poignant phrase. And why
would any of that make someone feel
better about snuffing out? The end
result is the same. You get a few
years on this sad, devolving planet.
If you’re lucky, you experience love,
someone or two or three to gentle
your time, fill the hollow spaces.
If you’re really fortunate, the good
outweighs the bad. In my eighteen years
all I’ve seen is shit tipping the scales.
I’ve been abruptly summoned to
the front of the classroom, at the urgent
request of my English teacher, the oh-so-
Ms. Hannity, emphasis on the Mizz.
She pretends sympathy, for what,
I’ve no clue, and like she gives half
a damn about anything but clinging,
iron-fisted, to her job. Mr. Turnahhhh.
Fake “South” taints her voice, and
her eyes—no doubt she’d describe
them as “cornflower”—are wide
with mock concern. Would you
please come he-ah for a minute?
I think she thinks she’s whispering,
but twenty-seven pairs of eyes home
in on me. I straight-on laser every one
until they drop like dead fly duos.
“Yes, ma’am?” The feigned respect
isn’t lost on her, and she doesn’t bother
to lower her voice. Mistah Carpentah
wishes a word with you. Please see
him now. And the rest of y’all, get back
to work. This doesn’t concern you.
Between the gray of consciousness
and the obsidian where dreams
ebb and flow, there is a wishbone
window. And trapped in its glass,
a single silver shard of enlightenment.
It is this mystics search for. The truth
of the Holy Grail. It is this believers
pray for. The spark, alpha and omega.
It is this the gilded claim to hold
in the cups of their hands. But what
of those who plunge into slumber,
who snap from sleep’s embrace?
What of those who measure their
tomorrows with finite numbers, cross
them off their calendars one by
one? Some say death is a doorway,
belief the key. Others claim you only
have to stumble across the threshold
to glimpse a hundred billion universes
in the blink of single silver shard.
reviews from Publishers Weekly:
Almost six months after his younger brother’s suicide, a high school senior slogs through tangled resentment and guilt.Matt’s world has never been rich with happiness, what with his cold parents who retreat “to their separate alcohol-soaked / corners.” Dad bitterly rues the one-night stand that created Matt and forced the marriage; their house “is a sponge, / absorbing regret until it can hold / no more and disillusionment drips // through the bloated pores.” Now Matt shoulders his own crushing regret. Luke was three years younger—Matt should have protected him from the homophobic and religious bullies; he should have told adults how depressed Luke was, even sneaking Mom’s Prozac, which can be dangerous for teens. He definitely shouldn’t have been distracted by his girlfriend on Luke’s last, desperate day. Now that very girlfriend seems to be “trading [Matt] in // for Jesus.” The sturdy, fast-reading free-verse poems—which sometimes shift into elegance—give a heavy sense of Matt’s anger and discomfort, as well as how he vacillates between decency and churlishness. Themes of combat-induced PTSD, Christian fundamentalist bigotry, forgiveness, and foreshadowed violence integrate deftly. The climax surprises in the best way. Brief but explicit acknowledgement of the It Gets Better campaign (and why it didn’t help Luke) grounds the contemporary setting.Readers devour Hopkins regardless, but this is strong and worthy. (Verse fiction. 14-18) —Kirkus Reviews