The Virgin of Flames

Chris Abani, Author . Penguin $14 (290p) ISBN 978-0-14-303877-1

An L.A. artist's search for identity forms the core of the diffuse but haunting new novel by Nigerian-born poet and Graceland novelist Abani. Black is a 36-year-old muralist living hand to mouth behind the Ugly Store cafe in a bleak area of L.A. He's depressed and in an existential rut: engrossed in his latest work drawing on Catholic iconography (beaten into him as a child by his Salvadoran mother), and still smarting from the disappearance when he was a child of his African father (a NASA engineer) on a Vietnam-era space-related mission, Black feels he's being followed by ghosts—namely, the biblical Gabriel, the angel of annunciation. Sometimes he converses with Gabriel in the spaceship he has constructed in honor of his father above the cafe. Black is also deeply conflicted about his sexuality; a frequenter of female prostitutes, he has recently become obsessed with a local transvestite stripper, Sweet Girl. But Black's malaise may also stem from a curse—involving a malevolent spirit that kills male children—that his father wrote him about. It's a muddle, and it's difficult to care about the plot details. But Abani touches on the far reaches of psychic pain, religious and sexual, and creates a hallucinatory despair. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 11/06/2006
Release date: 01/01/2007
Genre: Fiction
Open Ebook - 304 pages - 978-1-4362-9498-0
Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 304 pages - 978-1-4362-9671-7
Open Ebook - 304 pages - 978-1-4406-2741-5
Open Ebook - 304 pages - 978-1-4481-0462-8
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