Hallie is missing—and so are thousands of others. Everywhere people are singing—climbing to the rooftops, to the bridges, to lamp post and road sign, steeple and water tower, singing gloriously, triumphantly, tirelessly—and dying.
Hallie’s mother, Dale, goes to Manhattan to search for her. She drives in from rural New Jersey, passing abandoned cars and trucks, to make her way to the jammed George Washington Bridge, rejoicing with hymns and gospel and rock and opera.
The plague moves swiftly, and the city’s survivors form new communities, dealing with the rotting corpses, trying to re-establish a new infrastructure for the new order.
And odd things happen—angels come to earth, Christ drags his crucifix around Rockefeller Center, the Indian god Ganesh runs for mayor—but it doesn’t seem remarkable to the survivors. A man falls in love with a mermaid and decides to throw in his fortunes with hers, only to be attacked by an animal liberated from the zoo. Politics begins to assert itself, as does real estate issues, and it matters what—and who—you believe. It’s time to choose sides.
This quirky and smart postapocalyptic novel works brilliantly until its disastrously abrupt conclusion. As the action begins, people throughout America are seized by a kind of ecstasy: they start singing and can't stop until they die. The few stunned survivors in Manhattan try to organize themselves to stay alive and find new meaning for their lives. Then they discover they are sharing the city with angels, devils, and other mythical beings. Although Heuler shifts expertly between several characters, the story focuses mainly on two people: Dale, a middle-aged woman who is emotionally devastated by the loss of her daughter but who obsessively yearns to do the right thing, and Omar, an entomologist who wants to hold onto his faith that science can conquer the plague and cure the survivors' "delusions." Heuler begins spinning several fascinating plot threads then everything simply stops. If this were the start of a trilogy, it would be wonderful, but without the promise of future books, the whole thing is just a long shaggy-dog yarn.