Synopsis: With gothic intensity, Liz Jensen conjures the unnerving relationship between Gabrielle, a physically and emotionally damaged therapist, and her patient, sixteen-year-old Bethany, who is incarcerated in a British psychiatric hospital for the brutal murder of her mother.
Delving deep into the psyche of her fascinating, manipulative patient, Gabrielle is confronted by alarming coincidences between the girl’s paranoid disaster fantasies and actual incidents of geological and meteorological upheaval. Coincidences her professionalism tells her to ignore—but which her heart cannot.
As Bethany’s warnings continue to prove accurate beyond fluke, and she begins to offer scientifically precise hints of a final, world-altering cataclysm, Gabrielle is confronted with a series of devastating choices. Only to discover that in a world on the brink of apocalypse, belief is as precious—and as dangerous—as life itself.
First Line: "That summer, the summer all rules began to change, June seemed to last a thousand years."
Random Quote: "I belong to a generation that has seen statues & icons & buildings come tumbling down on TV: Lenin in Russia, the Berlin Wall, Saddam in Baghdad, the Twin Towers. But those topplings meant something to those who caused them. What does this mean? Who is to blame? What can one read into a random catastrophe, and out-of-the-blue event, an "act of God." "
Review: When I was in middle school, we lived in Dallas, Texas. One of the things I remember vividly from living there was a huge billboard of what Dallas will be like at The Rapture. A huge Jesus towers over the skyline & souls are wafted to heaven from the cars moving along through the rush hour freeway traffic. To be honest I went back & forth about requesting this book for review because the title led me to believe it might be like that billboard & that's just not my thing. Turns out, it's not Liz Jensen's thing, either.
The Rapture is a literary eco-thriller. The plotting is good, the characters feel real, the situation feels absolutely plausible, & as a reader you care what happens.
The strength of this novel lies in the two main characters who are both real & heartbreaking. Bethany Krall is a disturbed teenager institutionalized after she kills her mother with a screwdriver. Gabrielle Fox is an art therapist assigned to Bethany's case. Bethany is eerily correct in her predictions of natural disasters. Gabrielle is newly paraplegic, dealing with the consequences of an accident that has shattered her world.
I appreciated just how crazy Ms. Jensen allowed Bethany to be. So often when dealing with mental illness in adolescents writers give us watered down versions of depressed adolescents or abused drug addicts that we can all relate to & feel sorry for or good about. If you want to understand how far outside the norm children & teens who are institutionalized with psychiatric disorders are, just think about how broad the behavioral permissions are for kids & teens & then imagine what someone who falls far outside of that norm might be like. Ms. Jensen has done that with Bethany & she is frightening & real & pitiable &, in the end, admirable.
The heartbeat of this book is the narration of Gabrielle Fox who is trying to do her job, to live her life, & to sort out what being paraplegic is going to mean for how she lives. She is intelligent & ironic & self-pitying & often very funny. Thrust into a wheelchair, her dealings with Bethany & her predictions combine with her daily struggles to create a narrative that is both moving & entertaining.
There are images here that are unforgettable - the Christ statue in Rio de Janeiro toppling over after a hurricane, miles of dead jellyfish, graffiti only readable by satellite written in luminescent dye from the crushed shells of crustaceans, the faithful gathered in a stadium (reminiscent of the Superdome in New Orleans) waiting for the Rapture that never arrives. The world may end with a great big bang, but some of us may survive it - not a comforting thought in these days of increasing global warming & economic meltdown.