Review

Lullaby

by Chuck Palahniuk



With biting humor, brutal honesty, and more than a touch of magical
realism, Chuck Palahniuk examines and satirizes American culture in
his latest novel. In LULLABY, his fourth novel, the author of FIGHT
CLUB again turns a critical eye on materialism and consumerism,
reinvents the road trip novel and turns the idea of big brother
upside down and inside out.

Carl Streator is a journalist who has put the mysterious death of
his wife and baby daughter behind him until he begins a five-part
series on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. As he interviews grieving
parents he discovers a pattern: all the nurseries have the same
book of poetry open to the same page. Page 27 of "Poems and Rhymes
from Around the World" has an ancient African culling song. Could
its recitation be responsible for the deaths of babies and adults
around the world? As bodies begin dropping around him, Carl teams
up with Helen Hoover Boyle, realtor of haunted houses and assassin
for hire, to destroy all copies of the culling song. Soon Carl,
Helen, Helen's assistant Mona and Mona's boyfriend Oyster are on
the road, determined also to find the original copy of the song.
But, as they travel across the country it becomes apparent their
goals are not all the same.

Carl is a reluctant hero, but a likable one. Surrounded by
disturbing and disturbed characters, Carl struggles to control his
thoughts, which, he finds, have gained a new and awesome power.
Helen is as hilarious as she is evil. She creates and then profits
from the very misery she once suffered from herself. Still, there
is a wonderful glimmer of humanity in Helen, and the reader cannot
help but enjoy her honesty, wit, and instinct for
self-preservation. Oyster and Mona, the symbolic children of Carl
and Helen, have confused ethics and priorities, yet their values
are admirable.

Carl, Helen, Mona, and Oyster quickly form a twisted nuclear
family. However, like all children, Mona and Oyster eventually
strike out on their own, much to the consternation of their
"parents." Across the dizzying landscape of an America that is both
more and less than it seems on the surface, our fractured and
amazing family blazes a trail of miracles and struggles for
ultimate power; the power of life and death.

Dark and clever, LULLABY pits youth against middle age, optimism
against cynicism, love against lust, truth against appearance, big
brother against the gullible, soulless masses, not to mention Carl
Streator against calm-ophobics and distraction-oholics. A scathing
presentation of life in America and a new justice that lacks
morality and kindness, LULLABY taps into the greatest fears of
those who are willing and able to question the assumptions made all
around them. Uncomfortable and nihilistic yet thrilling and funny,
LULLABY is a small masterpiece of both imagination and
reality.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on January 22, 2011

Lullaby
by Chuck Palahniuk

  • Publication Date: July 29, 2002
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor
  • ISBN-10: 0385722192
  • ISBN-13: 9780385722193