Author: Michael Grothaus
A fabulous debut from a unique voice
I have a confession before I get into my review of Michael Grothaus’s remarkable debut novel Epiphany Jones You’ll all think less of me and I feel that I should probably lose my right to blog about books. It took me about a week to read Epiphany Jones and for all that time my constant earworm companion was Bustopher Jones from Cats. I even started to make up lyrics “Epiphany Jones is not skin and bones, but she’s not remarkably fat”. I know, I know. I’m a dreadful person but I really did have to get that off my chest.
Now that I’ve spread my earworm around you all I can get on with my review of this unique and compelling book.
Jerry’s tragic past has left him with deep-seated psychological issues. He cannot form relationships with women – or with anyone really – and he has hallucinations. He sees people on the street, in his home, at his work and carries out conversations with them. His unsettled world is further thrown into chaos when the eponymous Epiphany comes into his world and he becomes embroiled in art theft, murder and sex trafficking.
To go much more into the story – including the tragedies Jerry has experienced– would be to do the book a real dis-service. This is a book you want to read with as little knowledge as possible about the plot as it’s a joy to experience it unfold as you turn the page.
The book begins with some of the blackest, sickest humour I’ve ever encountered (a very good thing) and the scene with “El Capitan” made me laugh out loud, then feel a little bit ashamed of myself for laughing. As the plot became darker the laughs became fewer but didn’t disappear entirely. The book managed to move effortlessly between black humour, sweet romance and hideous descriptions of violence and abuse without being jarring (or any more jarring than was necessary for the narrative).
Epiphany was a great character – a woman who had faced the worst that life had to offer, but fought to regain control of her destiny. I’ve seen comparisons with Lisbeth Salander and they aren’t far off the mark. Like Lisbeth though, I never fully engaged with Epiphany despite how strong she was. I was much more taken by Jerry, his depravity and the (sorry for the dreaded j-word) journey that he embarks upon. He was complicated, likeable, detestable and pitiful all at the same time but I never stopped rooting for him nonetheless.
Epiphany Jones is a marvellous book with a completely unique voice. This is Grothaus’s first novel and I’m already looking forward to his next one.