Perhaps best known for his 1996 novel Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk deftly writes about the bleak side of life using a poison pen filled with dark humor. And in Lullaby, his latest foray into the fetid back alleys of Americana, Palahniuk offers readers his most harrowing tale yet: an apocalyptic thriller for the new millennium.
Given an assignment to do a series of articles on sudden infant death syndrome, 40-something newspaperman Carl Streator discovers most of the cases including that of his own daughter are linked to an anthology of children's nursery rhymes found at the scene of each child's death. Within this book is an African chant, a culling song, which has the power to kill when spoken to or even thought at someone. Thus, with the guilt of his daughter's death weighing heavily on his heart and the culling song stuck in his memory, Streator sets off on a cross-country pilgrimage to rid every home, bookstore and library of all existing copies of the chant. Along the way, he enlists the help of Helen Hoover Boyle, a real estate agent specializing in haunted houses, her witchcraft-practicing assistant, Mona, and Mona's ecoterrorist boyfriend, Oyster. A dysfunctional surrogate for the family Streator lost long ago, these four emotionally scarred characters attempt to rid the world of a plague you catch through your ear . . . an idea that occupies your mind like a city. Like Ray Bradbury's dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451, with which Lullaby shares many common themes, this is a cautionary tale for a literate society. Chockfull of vivid imagery couched within a biting commentary on the information age in which we live, Palahniuk's chilling story is an allegory for the power words can wield.
Laced with an acerbic wit and written in prose that makes even the most unpleasant scenes sound lyrical, this book will surely please Palahniuk's legion of fans, but will also win over an audience brave enough to take a long, hard look at themselves and the world around them and like Carl Streator, brave enough to read between the lines. Thomas A. Grasso lives in Hoboken, New Jersey.