News from Fort God

William Sutherland, Author Mid-List Press $12 (212p) ISBN 978-0-922811-17-5
This lackluster first novel strives to present a comic utopia but settles for a postmodernist version of Northern Exposure. Jack, the clumsy but kindhearted father of a toddler, is minister of a self-styled Alaskan ``church'' built around two goddesses. Ronda, ``named for Ronda Davis, the star of the British radio program `My Secret Garden,' '' is a nature deity requiring vegetable sacrifices (hence the irony of a sanctuary located in Alaska). Lorane, her evil counterpart, is named for a waitress who brought Jack ``four consecutive plates of cold scrambled eggs.'' Ellen, Jack's wife, is a teacher by day, a nurse by night; she's also a ``soul traveler'' who visits different countries in her trance-like state. Her remarkable excursions quickly become a metaphor for the mindset of all the women in this book, who follow their men to Alaska but never adjust to its climate or lifestyle and seek only to escape. Even readers who relate to these wooden oddballs will have trouble following a dozen simultaneous plots: the man who freezes to death in Jack's bathtub; the kidnapped dog; various characters embroiled in sexual and marital conflicts; the poet who dissects animals. None make a lasting impression. (July)
Reviewed on: 04/29/1991
Release date: 05/01/1991
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