Review: Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk

LullabyWhat 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.)ย  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!)— โ€œHandle 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.ย  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.

Invisible Monsters: A Novelย 

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?

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About Jamie

Jamie is a 32 year old married lady (with a new baby!!) who is in denial that she's actually that old to be a married lady and a mom. When she's not reading you can find her doing Pilates followed by eating ice cream, belting out Hamilton (loud and offkey) and having adventures with her husband, daughter and rescue dog.


  1. Haunted and Choke are my two favorite Palahniuk reads. I highly suggest them.

  2. I've seen Palahniuk before but nothing ever made me want to pick up one of his books. Your review makes me want to go find this book and read it immediately, possibly based on your line "Chuck Palahniuk, you are the Mexican Walking Fish of authors".

  3. Hannah–I've read Choke before but I didn't LOVE it like I'd hoped to. I definitely liked Lullaby better. Maybe I'll pick up Haunted next.

    Red– Haha. I'm just warning you..his books are somewhat out there and you will feel like you are trying to wander around in a dark room, bumping into things and stubbing your toe, but you'll eventually find the light switch! That's really the best way to describe my experience. I loved Fight Club the best so far but I've heard really great things about Haunted and Invisible Monsters.

  4. I've got a copy of Choke and Fightclub on my shelf, but I've only ever read Haunted which I loved. It's pretty sick in parts though, but if that doesn't bother you I'd recommend it even if it is the only one I've read. I thought it was well written and very entertaining.

  5. I've only read Fight Club and Tell-All. Fight Club is great, but if you've seen the movie, there's not too much need to read the book. I DON'T recommend Tell-All. So I guess I'm not much help, am I? ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. TNBBC Super Mod says:

    Oh hooray! How did I not know you were a fan of Chuckie P? I fell in love with him when I read Invisible Monsters, and then fell harder when I read Survivor! I have not read Fight Club, becuase I saw the movie before I realized he has written it, and now I am afriad I won't like it as much as the film. I've also read Lullaby, Diary, and Haunted. All creepy…

  7. Ooh I'll have to add Survivor to my list!

  8. I have never read any of his books but have them on my list. My husband has read them all and he thinks I'd only like a few but he has recommended this and Invisible Monsters so I would go with that one! This is a great review… I'll definitely plan on reading this one when I get around to any of his books!

  9. I've only read Fight Club but I am too distracted by the Mexican Walking Fish to comment further. ๐Ÿ˜‰ It's as cute as it is disturbing…

  10. StephTheBookworm says:

    I've read both Haunted and Invisible Monsters. While Haunted is good, it is really gory and graphic so you have to be okay with that. Invisible Monsters, on the other hand, it one of my favorite books of all time, so I recommend that one!

  11. S.Leighanne says:

    I know so many people that have read his novels and they all say that they love him, and reading this makes me want to bump him up on my TBR list.
    I'm pretty sure I have this one, Snuff, Invisible Monsters, and Fight Club, i just haven't read them yet!

    Great review!

  12. I have just read one book by this author – Fight Club. I loved it! I wanted to read another book by this author. I think I will read Lullaby next.It sounds disturbing but I like creepy books now and then ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. mummazappa says:

    I can't believe I still haven't read one of his books yet. I'm ashamed to say (write) that out loud! Note to self, get a copy of this stat. Meanwhile, that mexican walking fish is CUTE!

  14. I've never read any of his books – maybe I'll have to pick this one up… :o)

    And holy moly, that fish is adorable!

  15. Collect Dreams says:

    I've got so many of his books on my list…
    I tried Choke, but I couldn't get into it. I really did love the movie of Fight Club, although I feel like by saying that, I've probably taken the first step to becoming one of those people who goes 'oh isn't there a book of that?' after having seen a film. Those kind of people drive me mad. HOWEVER, having read your review, I think that I will give Lullaby a go. I never like to give up without trying properly! Sorry not to be any help with recommendations!

  16. Anastasia says:

    I read Lullaby a couple years ago and I had the same 'WTF' moments while reading it. Chuck definitely has a unique & quirky style of writing, and I think your review is spot-on to what I felt when I read it.

    Carl was also "meh" for me, and I actually found him a bit pathetic. I completely agree w/you about Helen, though — I would have liked to read more about her, because in my opinion, her personality outshined Carl's.

  17. April (BooksandWine) says:

    This was my first Chuck P. I read it in 9th grade, and followed up with most of his other books. I am also with you on the WTFery.

    Also, ditto to everyone reccing Survivor, that is one of his best!

  18. I read (and bought) Invisible Monsters years ago and very much enjoyed it. It had a lot of the standard Palahniuk plot twists and mindbenders, but for me it was the language that sucked me in. Also I was fascinated by the subject matter – the beauty industry and how it intersects with the transgender lifestyle.

  19. thebookfairyhaven says:

    Oh, you've definitely piqued my interest with your review. I have never heard of this author before, but I am strangely very interested to read more about the subject matter he tackles and admit to being sold on the basis of the lullaby you mentioned in your review. Going to have to try and see if I can get hold of it.

  20. I love the little fish. How cute. I've only read Lullaby and Haunted, and I definitely liked Lullaby better. I think up next for me will be either Invisible Monsters or Survivor.

    I gave you an award over at my blog. Check it out at

  21. thezebracactus says:

    After reading Fight Club twice I rushed out and bought Lullaby and Survivor. Lullaby was an interesting read- the ending was quite a trip- but I could not get in to Survivor. I haven't picked up Palahniuk since. Maybe I'll give it another try with Invisible Monsters?