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Nick Laird

Modern Gods : A Novel

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<b><b>A powerful novel about two sisters who must reclaim themselves after their lives are dramatically upended, from an award-winning author with &quot;a wonderfully original and limber voice&quot; (<i>The New</i> <i>York Times</i>)</b><br /> <b> </b><br /> <b>&quot;[Nick Laird's] kinetic prose, full of insight about politics, history and religion, dazzles eye and ear.&quot; -<i>The New York Times Book Review</i> <p></p>&quot;Nick Laird takes two experiences poles apart and unites them in gorgeous language...[with] fierce tenderness. &quot; <i>-</i>Dave Eggers, author of<i> Heroes of the Frontier</i></b><br /></b> <br />Alison Donnelly has suffered for love. Still stuck in the small Northern Irish town where she was born, working for her father's real estate agency, she hopes a second marriage will help her get her life back together. Her sister Liz, a fiercely independent professor who lives in New York City, is about to return to Ulster for Alison's wedding, before heading to an island off the coast of Papua New Guinea to make a TV show about the world's newest religion. <p></p> Both sisters hope to write their own futures, but the past has other ideas. Alison wakes up the day after her wedding to find that her new husband has a past neither of them can escape. While Liz, in a rainforest on the other side of the planet, finds herself increasingly entangled in the eerie, charged world of Belef, the charismatic middle-aged woman she has come to film, the leader of a cargo cult. <p></p> As <i>Modern Gods</i> ingeniously interweaves the stories of Liz and Alison, it becomes clear that both sisters must learn how to negotiate with the past, with the sins of fanaticism, and decide exactly what the living owe to the dead. Laird's brave, innovative novel charts the intimacies and disappointments of a family trying to hold itself together, and the repercussions of history and belief.

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A powerful novel about two sisters who must reclaim themselves after their lives are dramatically upended, from an award-winning author with "a wonderfully original and limber voice" (The New York Times)

"[Nick Laird's] kinetic prose, full of insight about politics, history and religion, dazzles eye and ear." -The New York Times Book Review

"Nick Laird takes two experiences poles apart and unites them in gorgeous language...[with] fierce tenderness. " -Dave Eggers, author of Heroes of the Frontier


Alison Donnelly has suffered for love. Still stuck in the small Northern Irish town where she was born, working for her father's real estate agency, she hopes a second marriage will help her get her life back together. Her sister Liz, a fiercely independent professor who lives in New York City, is about to return to Ulster for Alison's wedding, before heading to an island off the coast of Papua New Guinea to make a TV show about the world's newest religion.

Both sisters hope to write their own futures, but the past has other ideas. Alison wakes up the day after her wedding to find that her new husband has a past neither of them can escape. While Liz, in a rainforest on the other side of the planet, finds herself increasingly entangled in the eerie, charged world of Belef, the charismatic middle-aged woman she has come to film, the leader of a cargo cult.

As Modern Gods ingeniously interweaves the stories of Liz and Alison, it becomes clear that both sisters must learn how to negotiate with the past, with the sins of fanaticism, and decide exactly what the living owe to the dead. Laird's brave, innovative novel charts the intimacies and disappointments of a family trying to hold itself together, and the repercussions of history and belief.A powerful novel about two sisters who must reclaim themselves after their lives are dramatically upended, from an award-winning author with “a wonderfully original and limber voice” (The New York Times)
 
“[Nick Laird’s] kinetic prose, full of insight about politics, history and religion, dazzles eye and ear." –The New York Times Book Review

“Nick Laird takes two experiences poles apart and unites them in gorgeous language…[with] fierce tenderness. ” Dave Eggers, author of Heroes of the Frontier


Alison Donnelly has suffered for love. Still stuck in the small Northern Irish town where she was born, working for her father’s real estate agency, she hopes a second marriage will help her get her life back together. Her sister Liz, a fiercely independent professor who lives in New York City, is about to return to Ulster for Alison’s wedding, before heading to an island off the coast of Papua New Guinea to make a TV show about the world’s newest religion.

Both sisters hope to write their own futures, but the past has other ideas. Alison wakes up the day after her wedding to find that her new husband has a past neither of them can escape. While Liz, in a rainforest on the other side of the planet, finds herself increasingly entangled in the eerie, charged world of Belef, the charismatic middle-aged woman she has come to film, the leader of a cargo cult.

As Modern Gods ingeniously interweaves the stories of Liz and Alison, it becomes clear that both sisters must learn how to negotiate with the past, with the sins of fanaticism, and decide exactly what the living owe to the dead.  Laird’s brave, innovative novel charts the intimacies and disappointments of a family trying to hold itself together, and the repercussions of history and belief.

Specifications

Publisher
Penguin Publishing Group
Book Format
Paperback
Original Languages
English
Number of Pages
320
Author
Nick Laird
Title
Modern Gods
ISBN-13
9780143110569
Publication Date
October, 2018
Assembled Product Dimensions (L x W x H)
8.40 x 5.50 x 0.80 Inches
ISBN-10
014311056X

Customer Reviews

Average Rating:(3.7)out of 5 stars
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Average Rating:(4.0)out of 5 stars

In Nick Lairds new no...

In Nick Laird's new novel, Modern Gods, the politics of Northern Ireland runs parallel to that of Christian missionaries and an indigenous religious cult in New Ulster, Papua New Guinea. After a bad first marriage, Alison marries Stephen, only to later learn of his involvement as a member of the Irish Republican Army in a mass shooting. Her sister, Liz, also escaping a bad relationship, agrees to host a documentary for the BBC on the Story and its leader, Belef, and travels to Papua New Guinea, only to become enmeshed in the struggles there between the two religious factions. I found the alternating stories interesting, but the ending somewhat dissatisfying. Although describing her marriage, I do think Alison sums it up best. "A second marriage meant substituting old ceremonies and traditions with different ones, meant trading in the old gods for new, but Alison couldn't help it; she didn't believe in it any longer. She'd lost her faith and found the new gods were false gods."

Average Rating:(4.0)out of 5 stars

probably the best thin...

probably the best thing i've read this year

Average Rating:(3.0)out of 5 stars

The description of thi...

The description of this book reads in part, "Both Liz and Alison are looking to be reborn, to be cleansed in some way, and the dramatic journeys that they take form the backbone of this compelling novel about trust, intimacy, complicity, religious belief, and the bonds of family life." I don't think that the person who wrote that summation actually read the book. Neither Liz nor Alison is "reborn" or "cleansed" here, and no one takes a journey (although they do both need to examine their own contributions to unfortunate events). The book opens with a terrorist attack on an Irish pub, in which several people are killed. The way in which this incident is woven into the story was the most interesting part of the book for me. The focus of the book is the Donnelly family, including the parents Judith and Kenneth, who both have serious health issues, and their grown children Liz, Alison and Spencer. Liz is an anthropologist living in New York who comes to Ireland for the second wedding of her younger sister Alison. Alison is marrying Stephen, a man with a tragic past, and she really should have listened to him when he tried to tell her about it before the wedding. After the wedding their marriage is severely challenged. Spencer's sole contribution to the book is to have a boring affair with a married woman. His character is given short shrift here and I have no idea why he was included in the book. There is also a dog who Liz smuggles into Ireland and dumps on her parents while she goes to New Guinea. The dog then disappears until the final pages of the book. Liz has been asked to fill in as host of a BBC documentary on a religious movement in New Ulster near Papua New Guinea. A woman called Belef has started a new religion there, combining local religions with Christianity. She communicates with the dead, including her daughter, in order to obtain the cargo that she sees going exclusively to the white people. Belef is a grieving mother who is part insane and part shrewd. The chapters of the book dealing with the film crew, the Christian missionaries and Belef and her followers were my least favorite. I found this book disjointed. Both the Belef story and the Irish story (to a lesser extent) deal with the role of religion in people's lives. Both Belef and Judith use religious rituals to deal with death, grief and illness. Religion is also a source of violent conflict in both settings and divides the Protestants and Catholics in Ireland and the Christian missionaries and Belef in New Guinea. However, I thought that the religious linkage didn't completely tie the two parts of the book together. I think that I would have been happier with just the Alison/Stephen storyline. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.


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