'Everyone else knows the truth about you, now you can know it, too.' That's the promise of Adam Lyon's epiphany machine, or at least the headline of an original promotional flyer he uses in the 1960s. At that point, Adam is already hosting regular salon nights in his tiny New York City apartment, where his guests can offer up their forearms to his junky old contraption and receive important, personal revelations in the form of a tattoo.
"Venter Lowood never knew his mother because she cast her lot with Adam Lyon and his diabolical Epiphany Machine, and then disappeared. All kinds of people come to Adam's shabby New York apartment hoping for enlightenment via an epiphany tattoo brutally inked into their forearms by an odd contraption resembling a sewing machine. In this many-stranded, Kafkaesque, alternative-reality bildungsroman and satire of American dysfunction, private and political, Gerrard spins suspect tales about the origins and uses of the machine, involving an enslaved blacksmith during the American Revolution, John Lennon, and the Internet. Once viewed as the shameful marks of a cult, these oracular tattoos describing the true nature of their bearers become hip and desirable even as they do as much harm as good. After bumbling Venter follows his mother's path and becomes Adam's assistant, both he and his friend Ismail, aspiring writers, get tattoos. While Venter's is personally challenging, Ismail's is a dire liability in the wake of 9/11. A rampaging inquiry into questions of self, society, and justice, Gerrard's novel is boldly imagined, droll, and righteously incisive.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2017 Booklist"
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review:
"Gerrard's (Short Century) superb second novel has an exhilarating premise: what if there were a machine that could reveal your deepest secret-the uncomfortable truth about yourself you choose to overlook-by tattooing it on your forearm? The novel is composed of rules about the machine, testimonials, descriptions of quasiprophetic operator Adam Lyons, and excerpts from books by the mysterious Steven Merdula about the machine-but primarily the book is Venter Lowood's memoir about coming of age in New York at the turn of the 21st century. Lowood contemplates and discusses American political history from the American Revolution to the War on Terror, raising questions about privacy, destiny, responsibility, and truth. Gerrard's deft command of character, humor, and metaphor keep this intricate, philosophical novel fast-moving, poignant, and fun. In snarky banter, Venter and his best friend Ismail Ahmed communicate their deep affection and their playful rivalry, and in Venter's tense conversations with his father (whose forearm reads "SHOULD NEVER BECOME A FATHER") readers can see the painful legacy of the Lowoods' encounters with Lyons and the machine. The figurative language is inventive and insightful: "Life is an extended freefall. An epiphany may help you see better.... Rather than a meaningless blur, you will see rocks and trees and lizards. An epiphany is not a parachute." This is a wildly charming, morally serious bildungsroman with the rare potential to change the way readers think. (July) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved."
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