“Each of us is a seeker, walking along Eternity’s Road, which has no beginning and no end.”
An apt quote to begin a review concerning a book that deals with aspects of eternity, and whatever your belief (or beliefs) are, you may have to suspend them temporarily to fully enjoy this new offering from Lisa de Nikolits, author of 2016’s The Nearly Girl (Inanna) as well as the award-winning Between the Cracks She Fell (2015, Inanna).
Julia Redner gradually awakens to find herself in a nondescript airport with a bunch of people standing around. Did she fall asleep at the airport? No, for she is only dressed in her go-to couch potato outfit with nothing on her feet. Only those cannot be her feet, for they are in desperate need of a pedicure! She soon discovers that this is actually Purgatory, this isn’t a dream! But how did she die?
Purgatory (in Ms. de Nikolits’ view) is a large, impersonal space with unmarked doors leading into different rooms. Some are restrooms (for sleeping), rooms for activities like lawn bowling, knitting, exercise and so on. How one remembers all this is beyond Julia. Agnes, her multi-pierced Goth “Introducer” tells her:
“I’m just here to give you the guided tour: Purgatory for Dummies.”
“This is Purgatory?”
“It’s no island cruise, I’ll tell you that much.”
Julia, a self-described “bitch” in her earthly existence (a la Miranda Priestly in “The Devil Wears Prada”) is compelled to associate and interact with her fellow “Purgatorians” in ways she would have considered beneath her in her daily life. Here in Purgatory, all are equal (since everyone is dead and doesn’t own a thing, there is no materialism or wasteful consumerism), there are no class distinctions and it really is one large group therapy session. As each member of the group relates how they died (some are suicides, others are overdoses) and by listening and being supportive, Julia is slowly transformed into a more selfless individual, aided by various helpers such as the aged hippie Cedar Mountain Eagle and Über-dyke Beatrice with whom Julia strikes up a Scrabble-based friendship.
***Spoiler Alert Begins!***
Julia’s death (or, actually a near-death) experience came at the hands of her ex-lover Junior, the CEO of the company she has worked for for 17 years. One day, she finds her position is terminated and she is escorted out of the building. Assuming that Junior had a hand in all this and never even gave her a warning call, she retaliates by posting a naked picture of Junior, which goes viral, thus destroying him on several fronts with a click of a button. He retaliates by breaking into her apartment and beating her (with the sole intent of destroying her good looks) until she falls into a coma. It is in this state she arrives in Purgatory. Eventually, Julia is presented with a choice by the Helpers: she can go back and wake up from the coma, or stay in Purgatory. Julia opts to go back for several reasons, the two main ones being to get Junior incarcerated and to make amends with her young niece Emma, whom she spurned care of when her parents both died in a car accident.
***Spoiler Alert Ends!***
To date, I have read three of Ms. de Nikolit’s last four novels and it has been interesting to see her develop her serious-comedic style that really hit its stride in The Nearly Girl and has continued with No Fury Like That. As with the earlier novel, there are deeper undercurrents at play. In The Nearly Girl, we had a story about loveable, quirky characters in group therapy with various neuroses (led by a psychiatrist grappling with his own demons) trying to find and maintain love in a world that tries to suppress or compartmentalise them as crazy. In Fury, we have a similar disparate cast of characters now united in the afterlife and who for the most part are attempting to make sense of their earthly lives in a “coffee klatch” type of atmosphere, gently guided along by the more experienced Helpers.
It is this “stand-back-and-take-a-look-at-your-life” message that is the biggest takeaway from Fury. It is about realisations: how an altruistic life is better than a self-centered mean-spirited one, the struggle for worldly recognition is often futile, your family does need you, even if they don’t know it, one act of indiscretion can have fatal consequences, and the list goes on. Once each Purgatorian attains their personal realisation, they can move along to the next level, wherever that may be.
Bottom line: don’t dismiss No Fury Like That as a light, entertaining read. There are nuances to Ms. de Nikolit’s writing that could be missed with such a viewpoint. This book is really about second chances that we may never get the first time around on our trek along Eternity’s Road.
No Fury Like That by Lisa de Nikolits
Lisa de Nikolits is the award-winning, critically-acclaimed author of six novels: The Hungry Mirror, West of Wawa, A Glittering Chaos, The Witchdoctor’s Bones, Between the Cracks She Fell and The Nearly Girl (Inanna Publications). She lives and works in Toronto.