The Next Queen of Heaven: A Novel

( 26 )

Overview

With the new millennium approaching, the eccentric town of Thebes grows even stranger. Mrs. Leontina Scales begins speaking in tongues after being clocked by a Catholic statuette. Her daughter, Tabitha, and her sons scheme to save their mother or surrender her to Jesus—whatever comes first. Meanwhile, choir director Jeremy Carr, caught between lust and ambition, fumbles his way toward Y2K. The ancient Sisters of the Sorrowful Mysteries join with a gay singing group. The Radical Radiants battle the Catholics. A ...

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Overview

With the new millennium approaching, the eccentric town of Thebes grows even stranger. Mrs. Leontina Scales begins speaking in tongues after being clocked by a Catholic statuette. Her daughter, Tabitha, and her sons scheme to save their mother or surrender her to Jesus—whatever comes first. Meanwhile, choir director Jeremy Carr, caught between lust and ambition, fumbles his way toward Y2K. The ancient Sisters of the Sorrowful Mysteries join with a gay singing group. The Radical Radiants battle the Catholics. A Christmas pageant goes horribly awry. And a child is born.

Only a modern master like Gregory Maguire could spin a tale as frantic, funny, and farcical as The Next Queen of Heaven.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Maguire, who made a name for himself with bestselling fantasy books like Wicked, delivers a sharp, funny, and provocative dual coming-of-age story set in 1999 upstate New York, focusing on obnoxious 17-year-old Tabitha Scales, and Jeremy Carr, a musician and director of the local Catholic church choir. Tabitha becomes the caretaker of her devoutly Protestant mother, Leontina, after she takes a nasty bump on the head and transforms into a foul-mouthed, helpless stranger. Jeremy, meanwhile, hopes an upcoming music gig in New York City will give him what it takes to leave Thebes--and former flame Willem Handelaers, now happily married with children--in the past. Jeremy's longing for Willem is heartbreakingly conveyed, as is Tabitha's rushed maturity and yearning for a man she later learns is engaged to a woman in Jeremy's choir. In conversations and their inner lives, Maguire's characters philosophize about faith, religion, acceptance, and desire in a way that never feels forced or preachy, and though cutesy at times, Maguire's humor buoys the darker story lines and keeps this winning story on track. (Oct.)
Ann Patchett
“Reading The Next Queen of Heaven is like hanging on to the back of an out-of-control carnival ride—terrifying, thrilling, a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.”
Los Angeles Times
“Comes alive in many dimensions, many of them funny and slightly bonkers.”
Washington Post
“A delight. . . . [A] funny and warmhearted exploration of the sacred and the profane.”
Washington Post
"A delight. . . . [A] funny and warmhearted exploration of the sacred and the profane."
Los Angeles Times
"Comes alive in many dimensions, many of them funny and slightly bonkers."
Ann Patchett
"Reading The Next Queen of Heaven is like hanging on to the back of an out-of-control carnival ride—terrifying, thrilling, a once-in-a-lifetime adventure."
Library Journal
Originally published in 2009 as a limited-edition book by Concord Free Press for charity, Maguire's (Wicked) latest takes on religious life in rural upstate New York. Leontina Scales, thrice-divorced single mother of three teenagers, is a faithful member of the Cliffs of Zion Radiant Radical Pentecostal Fellowship, which shares a parking lot with the Catholic church next door. When she tries to borrow some milk from the church kitchen, she gets hit on the head by a decommissioned statue of the Virgin Mary, and all hell breaks loose for her family. Meanwhile, gay Catholic music director Jeremy Carr ends up befriending a bunch of ancient nuns at Our Lady of the Sorrowful Mysteries cloister. By turns serious and hilarious, this novel is classic Maguire despite its "real-life" setting. His take on the Radiant Radicals is a bit irreverent, but he shows sympathy for the Catholics in the story, particularly the elderly cloistered nuns.Verdict Recommended for readers interested in religious commentary with a sense of humor and Maguire fans not wedded to the fantasy genre. [The nonprofit Concord Free Press (www.concordfreepress.com) does not sell but gives away its books and encourages purchasers to donate to their favorite charity.—Ed.]—Nancy Fontaine, Dartmouth Coll., Hanover, NH
Kirkus Reviews

A fitfully funny and adventurous experiment from the author of Wicked (1995).

This strangely compelling religious farce originated much differently than the fantasy novels that characterize the work of Boston-based novelist Maguire (A Lion Among Men, 2008, etc.). This peculiar novel was originally born as a limited-edition paperback offered by Concord Free Press, the publisher that gives books away for free. Now Harper has given a second lease on life to this familial dramedy about a rebellious daughter, her devoutly religious mother and the bump on the head that turns their small town into a bit of a circus. Maguire's main prism on small-town life in Thebes, N.Y., is Tabitha Scales, a teenaged girl with a reputation as the town slut. In fact, she appears so regularly in the town jail that the police have let her decorate her own cell. "Thebes was so lame it might as well be amputated," she muses. Her mother is the long-suffering Leontina Scales, "a middle-aged pillar of the Radical Radiant Pentecostals (Also Republican, with some standards)." But things take a turn when a statue of Our Lady with a Chip on Her Shoulder falls over, bashing Leontina upside the skull and causing her to erupt in foul-mouthed tongues, espousing things like "Am of God, who takes away the sins of the world. So you: shut up." It seems that everyone in town is concerned with God's plans. Meanwhile, young, gay choir director Jeremy Carr is dealing with his own struggles, which include mourning a broken love affair with Willem Handelaers. Meanwhile, the Radical Radiants threaten war with the local Catholic Church.

Certainly not everyone's cup of tea, but an unfamiliar treat for those who like their comedy laced with a touch of satire.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061997792
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/5/2010
  • Pages: 347
  • Sales rank: 418,618
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Gregory Maguire is the author of several best-selling adult novels, including Wicked, which was turned into a Broadway musical. His books for younger readers include the picture book Crabby Cratchitt, the novel The Good Liar, and the popular Hamlet Chronicles series. While writing Leaping Beauty, Mr. Maguire sadly became allergic to all creatures great and small. Now he lives in a house without pets, though he is the father of three happy, noisy small children to whom, at this writing, he has not yet developed allergies.

Biography

Raised in a family of writers (his father was a journalist and his stepmother a poet), Gregory Maguire grew up with a great love of books, especially fairy tales and fantasy fiction. He composed his own stories from an early age and released his first book for children, The Lightning Time, in 1978, just two years after graduating from the State University of New York at Albany.

Several other children's book followed, but major recognition eluded Maguire. Then, in 1995, he published his first adult novel. A bold, revisionist view of Frank L. Baum's classic Oz stories, Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West places one of literature's most reviled characters at the center of a dark dystopian fantasy and raises provocative questions about the very nature of good and evil. Purists criticized Maguire for tampering with a beloved juvenile classic, but the book received generally good reviews (John Updike, writing in The New Yorker, proclaimed it "an amazing novel.") and the enthusiasm of readers catapulted it to the top of the bestseller charts. (Maguire's currency increased even further when the book was turned into the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Wicked in 2003.)

In the wake of his breakthrough novel, Maguire has made something of a specialty out of turning classic children's tales on their heads. He retold the legends of Cinderella and Snow White in Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister (1999) and Mirror, Mirror (2003); he raised the ghost of Ebenezer Scrooge in Lost (2001); and, in 2005, he returned to Oz for Son of a Witch, the long-awaited sequel to Wicked. He has reviewed fantasy fiction for the Sunday New York Times Book Review and has contributed his own articles, essays, and stories to publications like Ploughshares, The Boston Review, the Christian Science Monitor, and The Horn Book Magazine.

In addition, Maguire has never lost his interest in -- or enthusiasm for -- children's literature. He is the author of The Hamlet Chronicles, a bestselling seven-book series of high-camp mystery-adventures with silly count-down titles like Seven Spiders Spinning and Three Rotten Eggs. He has taught at the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons College and is a founding member of Children's Literature New England (CLNE), a nonprofit organization that focuses attention on the significance of literature in the lives of children.

Good To Know

In our interview, Maguire shared some fun facts with us about his life:

"While I pride myself on trying to be creative in all areas of my life, I have occasionally gone overboard, like the time I decided to bring to a party a salad that I constructed, on a huge rattan platter, to look like a miniature scale model of the Gardens of Babylon. I built terraces with chunks of Monterey jack, had a forest of broccoli florets and a lagoon of Seven Seas salad dressing spooned into a half a honeydew melon. I made reed patches out of scallion tips and walkways out of sesame seeds lined with raisin borders. Driving to the party, I had to brake to avoid a taxi, and by the time the police flagged me down for poor driving skills I was nearly weeping. ‘But Officer, I have a quickly decomposing Hanging Gardens of Babylon to deliver....' Everything had slopped and fallen over and it looked like a tray of vegetable garbage."

"My first job was scooping ice cream at Friendly's in Albany, New York. I hated the work, most of my colleagues, and the uniform, and I more or less lost my taste for ice cream permanently."

"If I hadn't been a writer, I would have tried to be one of the following: An artist (watercolors), a singer/songwriter like Paul Simon (taller but not very much more), an architect (domestic), a teacher. Actually, in one way or another I have done all of the above, but learned pretty quickly that my skills needed more honing for me to charge for my services, and I'd always rather write fiction than hone skills."

"I steal a bit from one of my favorite writers to say, simply, that I enjoy, most of all, old friends and new places. I love to travel. Having small children at home now impedes my efforts a great deal, but I have managed in my time to get to Asia, Africa, most of Europe, and Central America. My wish list of places not yet visited includes India, Denmark, Brazil, and New Zealand, and my wish for friends not yet made includes, in a sense, readers who are about to discover my work, either now or even when I'm no longer among the living. In a sense, in anticipation, I value those friends in a special way."

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    1. Hometown:
      Boston, Massachusetts
    1. Date of Birth:
      June 9, 1954
    2. Place of Birth:
      Albany, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., SUNY at Albany, 1976; M.A., Simmons College, 1978; Ph.D., Tufts University, 1990
    2. Website:

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 26 )
Rating Distribution

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(6)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 26 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 25, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Disappointing at best!

    As the new millennium approaches, the eccentric town of Thebes grows even stranger. Clocked by a Catholic statuette, Mrs. Leontina Scales begins speaking in tongues. Her daughter, Tabitha Scales, and her sons scheme to save their mother or surrender her to Jesus - whatever comes first. Meanwhile, choir director Jeremy Carr, caught between lust and ambition, fumbles his way toward Y2K.

    Only a modern master like Gregory Maguire can spin a tale this frantic, funny, and farcical. The ancient Sisters of the Sorrowful Mysteries join with a gay singing group. The Radical Radiants battle the Catholics. A Christmas pageant hoes horribly awry. And a child is born. (excerpt back cover).

    Yes, all this is included in the 347 pages in the latest novel The Next Queen of Heaven, from Gregory Maguire, who is the best selling author of such books as Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, Lost, Mirror Mirror, Matchless, and Wicked.

    I had to say this was one of the most challenging books for me to attempt to get through as a reviewer and have no particular preference for any genre of book, however this one had me struggling to get through the first half of the books, with harsh profanity from the character of Tabitha who seems to think that such behavior is a shock value for her mom despite all her attempts at prayer to save her. Her pastor at the church suggests that she role model appropriate behavior for her to follow while praying for her to change. When Tabitha disappears in a store to purchase a CD, her mother waits and then shows up screaming profanity at the top of her voice while making a huge scene in front of Tabitha's friends.

    When Tabitha hurries to make her purchase and later condemns her moms behavior, her mother is more than happy to point out how uncomfortable Tabitha makes it for her. So much for role model behavior. There are so many characters introduced throughout the book, that it's hard to maintain focus on just a handful. What disappoints me the most besides the language and references to Tabitha's many sexual encounters is that the book didn't do much to hold my interest. This was a huge let down for me after expecting a better book from Maguire after writing such hits like Wicked, Son of a Witch and A Lion Among Men.

    While this book may appeal to some readers, it did not appeal to me. I had the most difficult time attempting to read this book in its entirety to provide an honest review. Trust me when I say that the excerpt on the back does lay the story out for you and tell you the general content of the book, but let the buyer beware.

    I received this book compliments of TLC Book Tours for my honest review and have to say this one is a 2 out of 5 stars.

    2 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 28, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    The Kind Of Offbeat Tale Maguire Does So Well

    Gregory Maguire's new book, The Next Queen Of Heaven, focuses on small town America and the role that religion plays in this setting. The cast of characters rely on religion in various ways for various purposes, some spiritual, some skeptical while others are going through the paces of their lives looking for ways to connect and finding them in different churches. The book is set in the small town of Thebes, New York in the late 1990's.

    Jeremy Carr is the choir director at the local Catholic parish. He is hoping to make his big break after Christmas as he has won a place in a musical revue in New York. Jeremy is gay, and his singing group is made up of his friends who are also gay; one fighting AIDS. What has kept him in Thebes outside of a sense of obligation is his inability to stop loving Willem, who had a fling with him before Willem got married. Jeremy knows his love is impractical, but is stuck and can't bring himself to leave.

    Another part of the book revolves around the Scales family. Mrs. Scales is raising three children by herself, and looks to religion to help her get through the days and provide a structure for her children. She is met by indifferent success, at least by the measures of traditional success. Tabitha is the oldest and the town scandal as she moves from man to man. The middle son is Hogan, a dropout who is interested in cars and garages and video games, but not much else. The youngest is a son named Kirk, who is interested in music and drama and doesn't fit in well in a traditional school setting. Mrs. Scales, who is a fundamentalist Christian, is transformed when she goes next door to the Catholic church and gets hit over the head with a statue.

    There are other characters that play a part in the patterns. A group of ancient nuns live in an old convent outside of town, and a friendship develops between them and Jeremy's group. There are various ministers and priests, some of whom are helpful and some of whom use religion to accomplish their personal goals. Each person is clawing their way towards finding some meaning in their lives.

    Gregory Maguire is best known for his Wicked series, which used The Wizard Of Oz story to reinterpt live and love. This new book strikes out into fresh territory, which retaining Maguire's offbeat humor and ability to delve into his character's lives. This book is recommended for all readers.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 18, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Interesting, if not intriguing...

    This is one of those novels where you care... but then you don't. For some reason, as interesting and extraordinary as the characters were supposed to be, most of the time I could not bring myself to *really* want to know what was going to happen. Maybe because they were *all* written as extraordinary, they all became ordinary within the novel.

    I will be more specific. You have a stereo-typical evangelical christian who gets conked on the head while sneaking in the basement of the neighboring catholic church with, of all things, a statue of a catholic figurehead, her "slutty" and "stupid" daughter, her bully son, and her other highly effeminate, "confused" son. After being hit in the head, Leontina (the mother)'s behavior becomes bizarre---though never quite bizarre enough---cutting off the beginnings of her words, acting like a child in many ways, and eventually shutting down (much more interesting examples exist, but I do not wish to spoil any of the story). This all happens while her children, 17, 15, and 13 (ish.. I am not sure of the age of the youngest), are "taking care of" her and attempting to move forward and grow in their own lives. Just to add a little more, the daughter is also "suffering" from a boyfriend who is suddenly unavailable, as well as being the object of most grown men's attentions.

    And that is just one of the story lines. The other centers around three gay guys in this small new york town who need to practice for their singing group in a building housing a dozen or so elderly nuns. One of the guys, who also happens to be the musical director for the catholic church in which Leontina hit her head, is fighting demons from his past, another of the guys is fighting his too-catholic parents as well as a life-threatening disease, and the third is jewish.

    In under 300 pages, the book became a series of events instead of a novel wherein the reader could actually feel attached to any of the characters. In the end, it was difficult to feel anything---sympathy, joy, laughter, pain---for the characters because they had all become caricatures of who they could have been.

    Criticism aside, Maguire is still a great writer with interesting approaches, good ideas, and a nice use of words.

    I would recommend this book to people whose favorites books are among the "drama" or "life" books.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2013

    The most confusing book ever!

    At first I thought she was a seventeen year old girl, but then she's a statue? I'm like whaaaaaat?!?!? I don't know wthy I even thought about reading it, whatever, I just don't recomened reading it. Seriously!!!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 4, 2012

    Tedious

    I had read Maguire's previous work and while the plot with the nuns is terrific and features fantastic memorable characters, the main plot wasn't that interesting. Only really worth a read for Maguire fans.

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  • Posted December 19, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    The Next Queen of Heaven

    This book has one of the most diverse cast of characters I've ever seen. We start out with the rebellious teenage girl (Tabitha) and her super religious mother (Leontina - a Pentacostal). The two brothers of the family - one an attention starved young man that would do anything to please and the other surprisingly like Tabitha. Next we meet the Catholics (they share a parking lot with the mother's chuch). The way we meet them is rather interesting. Leontina sneaks into the Catholic church one morning to "borrow" some cream and gets knocked out by a falling virgin Mary statue.

    This is where things really get interesting as Leontina seems to have lost her mind and is left at home with her three children to care for her. But back to the Catholics. My favorite was Jeremy, the gay choir director, and his two friends are trying to find a place to practice for an AIDS benefit concert. Well, the only place they can find is a nunnery. A nunnery full of old retired nuns that ask only for some conversation in exchange for letting the boys used some space there.

    Somehow Maguire manages to get all these people tied up into the same story line as Christmas is quickly approaching. I won't want to say too much more or a lot of the surprises would be spoiled. An amazing book, that actually has you looking at a few serious issues of the world in a new way without even realized it until you're finished.

    5/5

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 25, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    interesting end of days

    In 1999 in Upstate New York, seventeen year old Tabitha Scales becomes the caretaker to her ultra religious mom Leontina after the latter takes a nasty blow to the head from a statue of the Virgin Mary. A highly pious Protestant who religiously attended the Cliffs of Zion Radiant Radical Pentecostal Fellowship, the three-time divorcee undergoes a radical personality change from someone who thought profanity was a sin to cursing out loud. She is a stranger in many ways to her frustrated daughter and her sons.

    Catholic Church music director Jeremy Carr hopes his show in New York City will enable him to flee from Thebes and finally leave behind his beloved Willem Handelaers, who is married with children. Although gay, Jeremy Carr becomes friends with the nuns of Our Lady of the Sorrowful Mysteries monastery. At about the same time, Tabitha falls in love but the object of her affection loves another woman who sings in Carr's Catholic Church choir.

    As the millennium countdown occurs in this small town, religious fever is at a frenzied high level that most people never see in their lifetime. Thus faith is bandied often with jocular pseudo babbling philosophy that makes St, Anselm's proof of God seem more deductive valid than most of the cast, who rationalize their belief system to cover their behavior. Readers who relish something different will appreciate a visit to Thebes, New York at the end of days of the last millennium.

    Harriet Klausner

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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