Keith Donohue has been praised for his vivid imagination and for evoking “the otherworldly with humor and the ordinary with wonder” (Audrey Niffenegger). His first novel, The Stolen Child, was a national bestseller, and his second novel, Angels of Destruction, was hailed as “a magical tale of love and redemption that is as wonderfully written as it is captivating” (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). Centuries of June is a bold departure, a work of dazzling breadth and technical virtuosity.
Set in the bathroom of an old house just before dawn on a night in June, Centuries of June is a black comedy about a man who is attempting to tell the story of how he ended up on the floor with a hole in his head. But he keeps getting interrupted by a series of suspects—eight women lying in the bedroom just down the hall. Each woman tells a story drawn from five centuries of American myth and legend in a wild medley of styles and voices.
Centuries of June is a romp through history, a madcap murder mystery, an existential ghost story, and a stunning tour de force at once ingenious, sexy, inspiring, and ultimately deeply moving.
Face down on the bathroom floor after "a conk on the skull," Jack, the narrator of Donohue's unconventional latest (after Angels of Destruction), embarks on an epic and darkly funny journey through time and space without traveling much beyond his own bathroom. Visited by seven ghostly women, and eventually his wife, Jack stands in for disappointing men throughout history as each of the phantom visitors tells him her life story. From Dolly, the Tlingit woman who marries a shape-shifting bear, to Alice, who winds up on the wrong end of the Salem witch trials, and Bunny, a New York City housewife whose search for love goes very wrong, the women each accuse Jack, tell their story, and then fade into a chorus with the others. When Jack finally hears out his own wife, the reason for the night's events including stopped clocks, talking cats, and what could be the ghost of Samuel Beckett becomes clear. Donohue's faultless eye for character and keen sense of humor keeps what could easily become a muddled mess pristine, with members of his quorum shining individually but also acting as cogs in the larger story's machinery. There are moments when the reader is left to wonder how things can possibly come together, but it's worthwhile to trust Donohue's narrators as they lead this puzzling and greatly satisfying trip.