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Keith Donohue
Angels of Destruction
Shaye Areheart / Crown / Random House
US Trade Hardcover Original
ISBN 978-0-307-45025-2
Publication Date: 03-03-2009
368 Pages; $24.99
Date Reviewed: 03-06-2009
Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel © 2012

Index:  General Fiction  Fantasy  Horror

There's a disease called Charles Bonnet Syndrome that strikes those who have suffered from visual impairments due to old age, eye damage or macular degeneration. Because the brain is used to input, lots of input, from the optic nerves, once those nerves stop sending detailed, voluminous visual information, sufferers from Bonnet Syndrome will manufacture input in the form of complex and detailed hallucinations. Humans, it seems, have a natural need to fill the holes in their lives.

So what happens when humans lose a child? When a child runs away, never to return? Keith Donohue, who wrote 'The Stolen Child', offers readers a lush, multi-layered vision of the ineffable that fills in the lacunae left when child runs away in 'Angels of Destruction'. Donohue's vision is indeed a complex, beautiful written hallucination that wraps itself around the reader's heart with a feathery but chilling touch.

As the novel begins, Margaret Quinn is an old woman, a widower living alone in the chilly northeast. In the hour of the wolf, she awakens to hear a tap on her door. It's Norah, a nine-year old girl, seeking shelter — and providing shelter as well. It's been almost 30 years since Margaret's own daughter ran away. Margaret takes Norah in, and the world unravels around the reader.

Donohue is a masterful writer on a variety of levels. As Norah insinuates herself into Margaret's world, we explore not only the mystery of Norah herself, but that of Margaret and what transpired with her daughter, Erica. For Margaret, Norah is like the visions created by Bonnet Syndrome when vision itself departs. But just who she is and why she is in Margaret's world are fascinating mysteries that also need knowing, even if knowing may seem impossible.

The joy of Donohue's second novel is not simply in his clever and complex plotting but also in his impeccable prose. Every sentence is a dislocating vision, every word takes readers another step from reality as we know to the inner worlds of characters and an outer, larger world we cannot possibly comprehend. Donohue is in many ways the truest heir yet to the Lovecraftian imperative to suggest the outlines of the unreal and let the reader fill in the details. His sentences have an almost cruel, cold beauty and precision about them. His writing frees the unease at the heart of what we do not and cannot know or admit about ourselves. We lie to ourselves as easily as we lie to others. We create visions where there is nothing to see.

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