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The museum of love
Steve Weiner
Adult Fiction WEINER

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From Publishers' Weekly:

Jean-Michel Verhaeren, an adolescent in a depressed French-Canadian town on the shores of Lake Superior, is the protagonist of this bizarre but impressive first novel. Jean's father is an unemployed prison guard; his mother, a morphine addict who has divine visions, is a janitor at a nursing home; and his brother, Ignace, is well on his way to becoming a saint. The Verhaerens are truly a strange lot--and Jean is as strange as any of them. He's the leader of a gang of not-quite-hoodlums, an obsessive when it comes to the subject of death and a fellow whose sexual orientation, as a friend puts it, is to ``butter his bread on both sides.'' When Jean burns down a wing of his Catholic school, he's sent to the reformatory, where the British boys beat and abuse him. Weiner's prose is lucid and startling, and he avoids the fey, New Age tendencies of many practitioners of magic realism, instead forging an industrial, fire-and-brimstone variety whose surreal imagery is spare and shocking. But the novel is relentless in its bleakness, and the mix of disparate elements--spirits taking flight as birds, contrasted with the grim Acadian setting--proves not to be as felicitous as one would expect. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

Adolescent Jean-Michel Verhaeren does not have what might be called a nurturing environment: he's dealing with a brutal prison guard for a father, a guilt-inducing mother and brother, the narrow-minded conformity of the Fifties, and the foul air and water of Toronto, with its bone-numbing winters. ``Our lives were blind, instinctive, Catholic. We were miners with no lanterns. We danced in our city of the dead and thanked le bon Dieu for our graves.'' He finds solace in fantasy, the small gang he leads, his sense of irony (admitting one member for telling fiction as though it were fiction), and the exploration of his emerging homosexuality. Thus begins his bizarre journey through alternating periods of insane confusion and pure clarity, as he travels first to reform school and then to the surreal Museums of Negritude, Religion, Love, and Death. This is a quirky first novel whose occasional failings are more than compensated for by Weiner's ability credibly to depict utterly bizarre thoughts, emotions, and situations. The Museum of Love is no place for the timid, but the bold will enjoy this exhibition hall of the imagination.-- Jim Dwyer, California State Univ. Lib., Chico (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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main characters Jean-Michel Verhaeren
Age: Teenager
French Canadian
Effeminate; spiritually empty.

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