Monday, June 4, 2012

The Rapture, by Liz Jensen

Gabrielle Fox is an art therapist who works with disturbed teenagers. As the book opens, she is beginning a temporary appointment in a small town outside London, having just spent two years rehabbing after an accident that left her both emotionally and physically (she is in a wheelchair) damaged. She is depressed by her own situation and by the rantings of environmental extremists who predict that humans are about to become obsolete.

One of the challenges of Gabrielle's new job is working with Bethany Krall, a teenager who brutally murdered her mother. Her father, an evangelical minister (one of many who became popular in the Faith Wave that followed the collapse of the global economy), wants nothing to do with Bethany. Gabrielle soon learns that electro-convulsive therapy has had a marked effect on Bethany--she has become more communicative, but she is also convinced that she can predict major natural disasters around the world. And soon, Gabrielle starts to believe she might be right. Gabrielle enlists the help of physicist Frazer Melville; the two, who become romantically involved, lean toward a scientific explanation of Bethany's predictions, while others--including Bethany's previous therapist--believe the answer can be found in religion.

As the story unfolds, we learn more about Bethany's family, Gabrielle's accident and the resulting problems she faces, degradation of the environment, drilling for methane gas, and the notion of The Rapture. While there are moments in the book when you think things might work out, the climax is apocalyptic. Jensen leaves us with questions about what happened and what might happen next, but there's little reason to think anything good could occur.

I listened to this book read by India Fisher, who has a bit of a tendency to sound angry and/or overwrought--which is probably appropriate to the emotional tenor of the book but was nonetheless somewhat exhausting. Perhaps that's how you normally feel when you read apocalyptic fiction--it's not really my genre and The Rapture won't start me binging on end of the world fiction. The one thing I do admire about Jensen's book is the way she depicts Gabrielle's feelings about her disability and the way it changes her interactions with people.

Favorite passage:
But weirdness is relative in the territory occupied by the mentally deranged.

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