Tales from a bathroom
Keith Donohue, author of The Stolen Child and Angels of Destruction, now brings readers a tale that is an intriguing and ambitious mix of psychological mystery, dark comedy, historical yarn, literary criticism, post-feminist discourse and the supernatural. The book also has a rather unique setting: One bathroom in an old house in the hours before nighttime becomes dawn. Yet within this one bathroom on this one night with an unnamed (until the end) and utterly confused protagonist, readers will also find themselves time traveling through several hundred years across the United States with a variety of fascinating characters. And while they, too, may experience moments of confusion that rival the main character’s, readers will be richly rewarded if they power through to the end.
As the story opens, our central character finds himself in a puzzling situation: Having gotten up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, he is now splayed out on the icy floor after a hit to the head, unaware of the injury’s source. Within minutes of his fall, from which he cannot get up, he is greeted by an old man who may very well be his deceased father. “That his arrival did not surprise me can be attributed to the other startling events of the day,” he notes, “or perhaps he was not there at all . . .”
The old man is just the first visitor among many that surreal night. The rest are an eclectic mix of ghostly women ranging from Dolly, a Native American who is married to a half-human/half-bear (really); to Alice, who is embroiled in the drama of the Salem witch trials; to a New York City housewife named Bunny; to a baseball-loving broad named Adele. All of them come to our hero as he lies prostrate on the floor; they then guide him through the intimate details of their lives and loves (some rather explicit sex scenes are included in the mix) as the reader wonders how all of these disparate parts can possibly come together into a cohesive story. And, yes, there are times when the tale seems out of focus and gets slightly tiresome, yet it manages to all come together at the end in a way that is both darkly existentialist and deeply moving.