Hey Nostradamus!

Overview

Pregnant and secretly married, Cheryl Anway scribbles what becomes her last will and testament on a school binder shortly before a rampaging trio of misfit classmates gun her down in a high school cafeteria. Overrun with paranoia, teen angst, and religious zeal in the massacre's wake, this sleepy suburban neighborhood declares its saints, brands its demons, and moves on. But for a handful of people still reeling from that horrific day, life remains permanently derailed. Four dramatically different characters tell...
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2003 Audio Cassette New 156511809X. New AUDIO CASSETTE-four cassettes 6 3/4 hours. In factory shrink wrap, which has some light shelf wear. Professional service from a Main ... Street bookstore.; 7.14 X 4.64 X 1.25 inches. Read more Show Less

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Overview

Pregnant and secretly married, Cheryl Anway scribbles what becomes her last will and testament on a school binder shortly before a rampaging trio of misfit classmates gun her down in a high school cafeteria. Overrun with paranoia, teen angst, and religious zeal in the massacre's wake, this sleepy suburban neighborhood declares its saints, brands its demons, and moves on. But for a handful of people still reeling from that horrific day, life remains permanently derailed. Four dramatically different characters tell their stories: Cheryl, who calmly narrates her own death; Jason, the boy no one knew was her husband, still marooned ten years later by his loss; Heather, the woman trying to love the shattered Jason; and Jason's father, Reg, whose rigid religiosity has separated him from nearly everyone he loves. Hey Nostradamus! is an unforgettable portrait of people wrestling with spirituality and with sorrow and its acceptance.
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Editorial Reviews

The Los Angeles Times
It isn't easy for a young writer to be viewed as a spokesman for his generation — even if, as Douglas Coupland did with Generation X, he labeled himself and his demographic cohort. Coupland's latest novel, Hey Nostradamus! proves he's bearing up under this burden just fine. — Michael Harris
The Washington Post
… there's something refreshingly serious about Coupland's dogged interest in the moment when a spirit fallen from grace may finally recover buoyancy. — Meghan O'Rourke
Publishers Weekly
Coupland has long been a genre unto himself, and his latest novel fits the familiar template: earnest sentiment tempered by sardonic humor and sharp cultural observation. The book begins with a Columbine-like shooting at a Vancouver high school, viewed from the dual perspectives of seniors Jason Klaasen and Cheryl Anway. Jason and Cheryl have been secretly married for six weeks, and on the morning of the shooting, Cheryl tells Jason she is pregnant. Their situation is complicated by their startlingly deep religious faith (as Cheryl puts it, "I can't help but wonder if the other girls thought I used God as an excuse to hook up with Jason"), and their increasingly acrimonious relationship with a hard-core Christian group called Youth Alive! After Cheryl is gunned down, Jason manages to stop the shooters, killing one of them. He is first hailed as a hero, but media spin soon casts him in a different light. This is a promising beginning, but the novel unravels when Jason reappears as an adult and begins an odd, stilted relationship with Heather, a quirky court reporter. Jason disappears shortly after their relationship begins, and Heather turns to a psychic named Allison to track him down in a subplot that meanders and flags. Coupland's insight into the claustrophobic world of devout faith is impressive-one of his more unexpected characters is Jason's father, a pious, crusty villain who gradually morphs into a sympathetic figure-but when he extends his spiritual explorations to encompass psychic swindles, the novel loses its focus. Coupland has always been better at comic set pieces than consistent storytelling, and his lack of narrative control is particularly evident here. Noninitiates are unlikely to be seduced, but true believers will relish another plunge into Coupland-world. Author tour. (July) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Coupland's eighth novel begins well enough with the charming, posthumous musings of adolescent Cheryl, briefly and secretly married to her steady, Jason, before she and her unborn child meet random death in a Columbine-style cafeteria massacre. Her widower picks up the narrative a decade later, opining on his lost faith and the death of his brother in a car crash, until he, too, is lost through one of several haphazard plot twists. His snappish girlfriend, Heather, picks up the story with her attempts to reach him in this world or the next before handing the mike to Jason's fundamentalist father, Reg, for the coda. The use of multiple first-person narrators ill befits the sketchily similar characters, who typically serve as mouthpieces for this author's trademark brand of cultural commentary-in this case rather trite meditations on loss, suffering, fate, God, and free will. Coupland's observations show little of the frenetic abandon and cleverness of his antic early works (Generation X, Shampoo Planet), making it hard to sense the point of all this or to enjoy the lack of one. Purchase as needed for diehard fans who haven't yet moved on to Haruki Murakami and Chuck Palahniuk.-David Wright, Seattle P.L. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A quartet of monologues about the aftermath of a high-school mass shooting. Set in suburban Canada between the late 1980s and now, each of Coupland's four sections here is narrated by a person in some way affected by a 1988 Columbine-like massacre. Setting the shooting that far in the past, years before something of its magnitude became a part of the mediascape, is an odd misstep for Coupland (All Families Are Psychotic, 2001, etc.), who normally has his antenna zoomed-in with radar precision on the Zeitgeist. Cheryl, the subject of section one, had just been secretly married to her boyfriend on the day she was killed in the massacre, and her memories leading up to that day are interspersed with the horrific details of the shooting itself. Then we're introduced to Jason, her husband, who heroically killed one of the shooters but ended up being vilified in the media and seeing his life turn to one of aimless dissolution. The book's last half is made up of a desultory slog through the life of the woman Jason later abandons, then of a brief, beside-the-point coda from Jason's ultrareligious father. There's some excellent material here, especially in the parts detailing the Christian youth group that Cheryl belonged to (an entire novel could have been written on the neurotic, cultlike ostracizing and later the near-deification of Cheryl). As an engine for moving a story along, the massacre at first seems a perfect choice but later feels only like an arbitrary and borderline exploitative excuse to link these stories together. It's not that Coupland can't conceptualize with more significance than is on display here; it's just that he seems not to want to. Cleanly written but lacking steam.Agent: Eric Simonoff/Janklow & Nesbit
From the Publisher
“[Douglas Coupland’s] focus is always on the moral implications, on human relationships and feelings. There is an almost spiritual aspect to his work that makes it emotionally compelling, and redemption is always at hand to pull his vision back from the brink of apocalypse. But more important perhaps, Coupland can write beautifully.” — Toronto Star

“Coupland, once the wise guy of Generation X, has become a wise man.” — People Magazine

"Fate is the psychological trigger in this often-hilarious novel, and Coupland knows when to trip the emotional safety catch." — Elle Canada

"In Hey Nostradamus!, Coupland takes an insightful look at religion, loss and forgiveness and how everyone is always looking for, as he puts it, the 'equation that makes it all equate.' " — Calgary Herald

“…[I]n Hey Nostradamus!, Coupland has fashioned his most serious and mature novel so far, mixing his youthful, exuberant prose with a certain compassion and restraint we haven’t seen from him before.…The leading literary voice of the most cynical generation lets it all out in a blaze of spirituality, terror, high comedy and soul-searching, and does it all in a way that is caring and clever, heart-breaking and hilarious, tough and tender. Hey Nostradamus! is not only Coupland’s best novel, but also one of the best of the year.” — Hamilton Spectator

“…profoundly topical…[R]eligious angst has never been made so entertaining.” — National Post

“Coupland’s writing is brilliant.” — Canadian Press

“ …[Coupland] gets us thinking about spirituality and the meaning of life, and no matter how bad things get, when you put the book down you can’t help but feel hope, which is a comfort.” — Georgia Straight

“…moving and tenderly beautiful….replete with Coupland’s breathtaking observations on consumer culture.” — Vancouver Sun

Praise for Douglas Coupland:
“The intelligence and humour of Coupland’s prose engages the mind while the unabashed yearning of his characters hooks the heart.” — Maclean’s

Praise for All Families Are Psychotic:
“As rich as an ovenful of fresh-baked brownies and twice as nutty. . . . Everyone with a strange family — that is, everyone with a family — will laugh knowingly at the feuding, conducted with a maestro’s ear for dialogue and a deep understanding of humanity. Coupland, once the wise guy of Generation X, has become a wise man.” — People magazine

“It seemed paradoxical that a writer so revered for his hipness resembles, in practice, nobody so much as Jane Austen.... In the resultant unravelling there isn't a boring page.” — The Literary Review

Praise for Miss Wyoming:
“The intelligence and humour of Coupland’s prose engages the mind while the unabashed yearning of his characters hooks the heart.” — Maclean’s

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781565118096
  • Publisher: HighBridge Company
  • Publication date: 6/30/2003
  • Format: Cassette
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Pages: 390
  • Product dimensions: 4.54 (w) x 1.24 (h) x 7.20 (d)

Meet the Author


Stage and screen actor DAVID LEDOUX has lent his voice to several Audie® Award-nominated audiobooks.

JENNA LAMIA has one countless awards for her narration of such audiobooks as The Girl with the Pearl Earring, Witness, and The Secret Life of Bees.

DOUGLAS COUPLAND is the author of the novels Generation X, Miss Wyoming, and most recently All Families Are Psychotic, among others, as well as the nonfiction works like Life After God and Polaroids from the Dead. He grew up and lives in Vancouver.

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Read an Excerpt

Internationally bestselling author Douglas Coupland’s eighth novel explores grief, faith and redemption in the wake of a high school shooting.
Several years after the 1988 Delbrook Senior Secondary School massacre, the television cameras have moved on to the next horror show; but for a handful of people in this sleepy corner of North Vancouver, life remains perpetually derailed.
Coupland writes this soul-searching tale in four voices -- Cheryl, who calmly narrates her own death; Jason, the boy no one knew was her husband, still marooned ten years later by his loss; Heather, the woman trying to love the shattered Jason; and Jason’s dad Reg, a cruelly religious man no one suspects is still worth loving.
With his inimitable style and his eye for the remarkable singularities of ordinary lives, Douglas Coupland masterfully weaves themes of alienation, violence and misguided faith throughout Hey Nostradamus!, creating a fateful and unforgettable knot from which three people must untangle their lives.
“I believe that what separates humanity from everything else in this world — spaghetti, binder paper, deep sea creatures, edelweiss and Mount McKinley — is that humanity alone has the capacity at any given moment to commit all possible sins. Even those of us who try to live a good and true life remain as far away from grace as the Hillside Strangler or any demon who ever tried to poison the village well. What happened that morning only confirms this.” -- Excerpt from Hey Nostradamus!

Author Biography: Douglas Coupland was born on a Canadian Armed Forces base in Baden-Söllingen, Germany, on December 30, 1961. He is the author of the novels Miss Wyoming, Generation X, Microserfs, and Girlfriend in a Coma, among others. His most recent books are the novel All Families Are Psychotic and a book of essays and photographs, Souvenir of Canada. He attended Vancouver’s Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design, the Hokkaido College of Art and Design in Sapporo, Milan’s Istituto Europeo di Design, and the Japan/America Institute of Management Science in Honolulu and Tokyo. He lives and works in Vancouver as a novelist, designer and visual artist.

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Table of Contents

1988: Cheryl 1
1999: Jason 43
2002: Heather 147
2003: Reg 229
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Reading Group Guide

1. Discuss Cheryl’s description of the events in the cafeteria. Does her step-by-step account and her sense of calm make the actions of the young shooters seem more or less real? Is there immediacy here, or distance?

2. Which of the novel’s four narrative voices did you connect with the most? Which the least?

3. One reviewer has written that Cheryl is among the most “spiritually mature” characters in this novel. What do you think?

4. How did the time span of the novel (about 15 years) affect your view of the characters, and the event that set this story in motion?

5. Some reviewers have suggested that this is Douglas Coupland’s most spiritual book to date. Through his characters’ struggles with belief, is Douglas Coupland being supportive or critical of the Christian faith? Or a bit of both? Compare the different approaches to faith shown by the four main characters.

6. Discuss the epigraph from 1 Corinthians that appears at the start of the book. What is Coupland saying about hope and redemption in this novel? Are any of his characters redeemed? Ultimately, what forms does hope take in their lives?

7. Jason’s narrative exists in the form of an open letter to his brother Kent’s twin sons. Heather begins writing her story directly into official court transcripts at work. Reg posts thousands of copies of his narrative in the forest near Chilliwack. Discuss the importance of writing and correspondence in this novel. What might Coupland be saying about the act of writing in general, or about how we as a society deal with grief? Consider also the letters Jason receives from Cheryl’s family, the various letters to God that Cheryl begins composing in her head, and even the list that Jason leaves with the psychic.

8. The title of this book comes from Jason’s reaction to his mother’s “Nostradamus kick” after the massacre, as she searches the astrologer’s prophecies for some sign of it (page 91). Do you think the title fits the book? Why or why not? Discuss how foreseeing the future might relate to this novel.

9. What kind of a person is Heather? What is it about her that appeals to Jason, and allows Reg to open up to her – or perhaps even change?

10. How did your memories of school shootings like those at Columbine and the École Polytechnique affect your reading of this novel? Has Hey Nostradamus! changed the way you think about such horrific events and their aftermath?

11. Cheryl tells us that her conversion took place in her backyard as she sat surrounded by huckleberry bushes, experiencing the smells of warm cedar and dry fir. “The moment made me feel special, and yet, nothing makes a person less special than conversion – it… universalizes you.” Discuss the association of spirituality with the natural world in Hey Nostradamus!

12. Did your opinion of Reg change by the end of the book? Why or why not?

13. Jason tells us that a few celebrities emerged from the massacre: himself, first vilified, then cleared; Cheryl, whose GOD IS NOWHERE/GOD IS NOW HERE note was widely reported as miraculous; and the shooter who repented, only to be shot by the other two. What is Coupland saying about our need to find heroes and villains in such situations? And what is the media’s role in feeding, or creating, this need?

14. While reading, how did you feel about Coupland’s use of humour in the novel? Did it seem out of place at any point, considering the subject matter? Or did it seem to grow naturally out of his characters’ reactions to their experiences? Is embracing the humour, or everyday-ness, of difficult events sometimes the only way to make it through them?

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