What if words had the power to kill? If uncontrolled thoughts could extinguish the life of another? Would humans become more deadly than guns and bombs and all the other man made objects used to kill one another? This is the kind of world that is a possibility in Lullaby. Carl Streator, a lonely and cynical reporter, is given the unfortunate task of doing a story on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome for his newspaper. In his observations, through studying all the details at the scene of SIDS victims, he comes across a shocking discovery that links all the deaths he has come across—in every house was the same book with the same page open or bookmarked. The lullaby, which is an African culling song, kills those who hear it—such as these innocent children being read a lullaby before bed. Carl realizes how dangerous this book is and decides to destroy all copies but not before coming into contact with Helen Hoover Boyle, a quirky real estate agent who sells haunted homes and who lost a child to SIDS, who has also realized this connection.
Chuck Palahniuk, you are the Mexican Walking Fish of authors—rare and completely a breed of your own. (Guys, I can’t help my love for bizarre creature..but this guys is so cute.) Every time I read anything by him I just prepare my brain for the madness that is going to ensue whilst reading. I mean, seriously, I had so many “WTF” moments while reading this book. I’d be reading along–enjoying where the plot was going and starting to put things together –and then Pahahniuk would throw a mind busting plot twist or bizarre scene and I’d just sit there with my mouth gaping wide open thinking, “WTF just happened.” It’s not often that I invoke the WTF while writing a review. It just happens with his books. He has this exceptional talent that allows him to tell an interestingly bizarre story that is just the cherry on top of layers and layers of complex themes and stark observations about humanity and Lullaby is no exception. His prose is succinct in all the right places and lingers where it matters. Lullaby, while a shorter read, is certainly dense and proves the undeniable power of language. It reminds me of a quote I wrote down in my journal many years ago (but unfortunately have no author for!)— “Handle them carefully, for words have more power than atom bombs.
The characters of Lullaby are all incredibly quirky. We get to know Carl the best, as he is the narrator, and while we learn about the other characters it is easy to see we aren’t getting a complete view of them due to the limitations of our narrator. Ultimately in the end I think we begin to realize the true character of each one and their motivations and even start to see Carl for who he truly is. Carl was just ok for me– I didn’t really dislike him nor did I particularly like him. I applauded his efforts to control the words in his head but sometimes thought he acted foolishly. I wanted to learn more about Helen though. I wish they went into her business more. I wanted to know WHY she sought out haunted houses just to terrify people and then turn them around quickly to sell again. Was it purely a money making scheme or was she just a sadist who enjoyed presenting the illusion of “The Perfect House” to people and watch them become terrified?
My final thought: This is one grim, bizarre and undeniably unique book. It’s also quite humorous in places. You won’t find anything else like it. I guarantee it. The story is mysterious and interesting in itself and plot twists will keep you wanting to find out more. I think that the subtle, and not so subtle, dialogues about issues such as the power of the media and the sharing of news and population control, along with the themes of family and power, just add to this novel. Not going to lie, a little creepy to read so much about dead babies, but read this if you are looking for something really bizarre or you already love Chuck. Read it if you don’t mind knowing what the hey-ho-dolly is going on for half the novel but are cool with fumbling around and taking it all in until you do. Pay attention to the details.
Friends, which novel would you suggest I read next of his? I’ve heard good things about Haunted and Invisible Monsters. What have you read?