"Each of us is a seeker, walking along Eternity’s Road, which has no beginning and no end." — Sri Chinmoy
An apt quote to begin a review concerning a book that deals with aspects of eternity, and whatever your belief (or beliefs) are, you may have to suspend them temporarily to fully enjoy this new offering from Lisa de Nikolits, author of 2016's The Nearly Girl (Inanna) as well as the award-winning Between the Cracks She Fell (2015, Inanna).
Julia Redner gradually awakens to find herself in a nondescript airport with a bunch of people standing around. Did she fall asleep at the airport? No, for she is only dressed in her go-to couch potato outfit with nothing on her feet. Only those cannot be her feet, for they are in desperate need of a pedicure! She soon discovers that this is actually Purgatory, this isn't a dream! But how did she die?
Purgatory (in Ms. de Nikolits' view) is a large, impersonal space with unmarked doors leading into different rooms. Some are restrooms (for sleeping), rooms for activities like lawn bowling, knitting, exercise and so on. How one remembers all this is beyond Julia. Agnes, her multi-pierced Goth "Introducer" tells her: "I’m just here to give you the guided tour; How Purgatory Works 101, for Dummies.”
“This is Purgatory?”
“It’s no island cruise, I’ll tell you that much.”
Julia, a self-described "bitch" in her earthly existence (a la Miranda Priestly in "The Devil Wears Prada") is compelled to associate and interact with her fellow "Purgatorians" in ways she would have considered beneath her in her daily life. Here in Purgatory, all are equal (since everyone is dead and doesn't own a thing, there is no materialism or wasteful consumerism), there are no class distinctions and it really is one large group therapy session. As each member of the group relates how they died (some are suicides, others are overdoses) and by listening and being supportive, Julia is slowly transformed into a more selfless individual, aided by various helpers such as the aged hippie Cedar Mountain Eagle and Über-dyke Beatrice with whom Julia strikes up a Scrabble-based friendship.
Julia's death (or, actually a near-death) experience came at the hands of her ex-lover Junior, the CEO of the company she has worked for for 17 years. One day, she finds her position is terminated and she is escorted out of the building. Assuming that Junior had a hand in all this and never even gave her a warning call, she retaliates by posting a naked picture of Junior, which goes viral, thus destroying him on several fronts with a click of a button. He retaliates by breaking into her apartment and beating her (with the sole intent of destroying her good looks) until she falls into a coma. It is in this state she arrives in Purgatory. Eventually, Julia is presented with a choice by the Helpers: she can go back and wake up from the coma, or stay in Purgatory. Julia opts to go back for several reasons, the two main ones being to get Junior incarcerated and to make amends with her young niece Emma, whom she spurned care of when her parents both died in a car accident.
To date, I have read three of Ms. de Nikolit's last four novels and it has been interesting to see her develop her serious-comedic style that really hit its stride in The Nearly Girl and has continued with No Fury Like That. As with the earlier novel, there are deeper undercurrents at play. In The Nearly Girl, we had a story about loveable, quirky characters in group therapy with various neuroses (led by a psychiatrist grappling with his own demons) trying to find and maintain love in a world that tries to suppress or compartmentalise them as crazy.
In No Fury Like That, we have a similar disparate cast of characters now united in the afterlife and who for the most part are attempting to make sense of their earthly lives in a "coffee klatch" type of atmosphere, gently guided along by the more experienced Helpers. It is this "stand-back-and-take-a-look-at-your-life" message that is the biggest takeaway from No Fury Like That. It is about realisations: how an altruistic life is better than a self-centered mean-spirited one, the struggle for recognition is often futile, your family does need you, even if they don't know it, one act of indiscretion can have fatal consequences and the list goes on.
Once each Purgatorian attains their personal realisation, they can move along to the next level, wherever that may be.
Bottom line: don't dismiss No Fury Like That as a light, entertaining read. There are nuances to Ms. de Nikolit's writing that could be missed with such a viewpoint. This book is really about second chances that we may never get the first time around on our trek along Eternity's Road.
Lisa’s serio-comedic interpretation of Purgatory, with a subplot of suspense and revenge make NFLT an intriguing novel and a fascinating read.
– James Fisher, The Miramichi Reader
Early Reader Reviews
Afraid to die? Worse is yet to come! Julia, a ruthless business woman, suddenly finds herself in a Purgatory not remembering if she has died,
or how. Left with no choice but to make friends with other lost souls, she never dreams she will become not only their saviour but also an avenger.
In this brilliantly written book you will be a holding your breath when Julia realises she should have make things all right at the primary crime scene where it all started – Earth.
— Suzana Tratnik, author of Games with Greta
No Fury Like That is de Nikolits at her best. She has taken the question, “What if you had a second chance?” and has given her imagination free rein to answer it. The result is a novel full of colourful characters who grapple with their lives, their deaths, and what it is to be human. By the final page the reader has not only witnessed Julia Redner’s metamorphic journey, but has also taken a personal step forward.
— Liz Bugg, author of the Calli Barnow Mystery Series
"Lisa de Nikolits is one of my most fascinating discoveries of Canadian literature. Her writing is fresh and attractive, but deep in ideas and thoughtful provoking.
No Fury Like That is an example of this duality: under the appearance of a paranormal story set in the Purgatory we face a brilliant psychological exploration of human soul questioning our certitudes about the world: Who we really are? How to find a responsibility about our past? What are the implications of our acts? Big questions presented through a captivating prose displayed in a perfect plot that catch the reader from the very beginning.
De Nikolits knows how to combine the oppressive atmosphere of Beckett or Kafka with the contemporaneous forms of thriller-narrative, always with a touch of humor and sensibility. And of course, with an extraordinary capacity to capture the essence of human emotions.”
— Miguel Angel Hernandez, author of Escape Attempt
Imagine if characters from The Devil Wears Prada got trapped in Sartre’s play No Exit, where “hell is other people.” No Fury Like That uses the lens of female souls stuck in purgatory to examine loss, love, rage, angst, and what there really is to live for. Alternately funny, melancholy, philosophical, and raunchy, it’s a wild ride and another gutsy novel from de Nikolits. — John Oughton, author of Death by Triangulation.
Suspenseful, surprising, thrilling and at times laugh-out-loud funny, No Fury Like That takes you on page-turning ride into another world — with Lisa de Nikolits’s skillful writing keeping you belted in. — Jacqueline Kovacs, Magazine Editor, Metroland Media
Julia Redner seemed to have it all: stunning good looks, fantastic job, and enough money and perks to live in the style she’d grown accustomed to. But after it all went down and she finds herself in the afterlife, Julia realizes that she didn’t have a single friend and now has a whack of unfinished business to settle. No Fury Like That is a cautionary tale about the perils of rising to the top at any cost. It’s also a smart, satisfying read that’s laced with humour, peopled with quirky characters and moves along at a fast clip. Readers will root for its plucky heroine, hoping she’ll get a shot at a second chance. Another spellbinder from Lisa de Nikolits!
— Rosemary McCracken, author of the Pat Tierney mysteries.
An intriguing and edgy idea where Purgatory is re-imagined as a pleasant spot where souls progress toward redemption through lattes, friendship and therapy. The book engages us from the first page when we meet Julia struggling to explore the strange airport where she has landed through her fight to solve the mystery of her own life and death. A beautifully written exploration of the metaphysical and of the many serious social issues faced by today’s women.
— M.H. Callway, award-winning author of Arthur Ellis Best First Novel finalist, Windigo Fire
Lisa de Nikolits is the perfect travel companion we all search for; she is funny without being mean, wise without being boring, and so good at getting both into and out of trouble. I have let her lead me onto a coach bus heading West of Wawa, I have stolen away with her to an abandoned school when Between the Cracks She Fell, and now I know I will follow her even to Purgatory where there is No Fury Like That of her betrayed but unsurmounted protagonist, Julia Redner. If you can, I recommend seizing this chance to take a trip with Lisa de Nikolits.
— Jade Wallace, contributing author to PAC ’N HEAT, a Ms PacMan Noir Anthology
Presenting No Fury Like That at the OLA Superconference with the Crime Writers of Canada
Protecting my phone with my book cover!
Excerpt from No Fury Like That
I try to get to the front of the crowd and I push forward, elbowing people aside, but a strange thing keeps happening; as soon as I reach the counter, it is as if a rubber band snaps me right back to the end of the line and it happens so fast that I can’t put the brakes on. The fourth time I reach the counter, I grab onto it with all my might but still, I find myself being flung backwards. It doesn’t hurt, I feel rewound, like part of a movie that you want to see just one more time.
After a dozen times, I lose my cool.
“What on earth? Seriously? What the heck is going on here?” I am yelling but I don’t care.
“Is there some goddamned vortex or what? What the heck?”
“She’s a new arrival,” I hear someone say and I spin around.
“Who said that?” I snarl. “Could someone please explain what’s going on?”
“Your introducer will show up eventually,” someone else offers.
“You have to wait.”
“Better hope you don’t got Agnes,” an elderly lady with a Jamaican accent and yellow hair offers. “She’s a crazy girl, that one.”
I want to cry. “I want my husband. I want to know where I am. I want to know what’s going on.”
I look around but people avert their gaze and stare at their fingers or the floor or the person next to them.
“Martin!” I scream, “Martin, I’m here! Where are you? Where are you, Martin? Please, I’m here, I’m here!”
“I’ll get someone for you,” a tall bony woman in her sixties says, and she pats my shoulder. “Agnes? Agneessss!”
She bellows and I am astounded at the strength of her lungs, given that she looks quite skeletal. I also noticed that she is sporting a tufted curl of thick beard that a billy goat would be proud of, white, to match her brows and bouffant hair and I shrink back.
There are many ways to deal with unwanted facial hair, I want to tell her but she is yelling again and she wouldn’t have heard me anyway.
“Yeah?” A tiny gothic girl pops up from under the Jamaican woman’s arm.
“Help this woman,” my bearded friend tells her. “How come we’ve all got to tell you how to do you job all the time? How you think you ever gonna get out of here?”
The girl shrugs and snaps gum. She eyes me. “That her?”
“How many other new ones you see?”
I am ping ponging between them, my head bopping this way and that, like I am watching a tennis match.
The gothic girl looks at me and sighs. “Come with me,” she says.
“Why?” I am suspicious.
“Because I’ve got the answers you’re looking for. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t give a shit but it’s my job to be your Introducer. We’ll find a lounge room and you can take a load off and I’ll tell you what’s what but I’ll be upfront, you’re making me nervous, man, you’re a bit freaked out.”
“For god’s sake, forget the stupid lounge. I just need to know where I am and how I got here and what’s going on.”
“Julia,” Agnes says kindly, “the sooner you shut up and follow me, the sooner you will be enlightened, and whatever joy that may bring, all the power to you.”
I follow the girl away from the crowd.
We walk down a long white corridor and I hear this odd beeping sound, like a truck reversing. The sound gets louder and louder and I turn around just in time to avoid being mowed down by a small white airport buggy, its orange lights flashing. A blonde woman is at the wheel, she is in her late fifties, with a helmet of hair-sprayed hair, wide-eyes popping and unblinking, and a grin that would frighten kids on Halloween.
“Who was that?” I ask, still pressed against the wall.
“Emily the Driver. Who knows what she really does, I never actually see her giving anyone a ride. Come on, we’re here.”
Agnes opens a door to a private lounging area with red-painted Perspex walls that are backlit to create soft shapes of light. It is like being inside a red lava lamp only nothing is moving. The room is filled with bean bags in yellow and purple and green and there are hanging basket chairs with fuzzy cushions and the floor is covered with soft rectangular pieces of foam.
“Looks like a playroom for kids,” I say but Agnes shook her head.
“There are hardly any kids here and they’ve got like slides and nets and balls and shit. Stuff to climb on and break their necks, if they could, which they can’t. But they’re on the other side, they’re not in this nook.”
“Where folks like us hang out. The kids move along quickly anyways, it’s different for them.”
This girl is making no sense at all. She waves me to sit and I sink down into bean bag and fold my arms thinking the sooner
I let her do her spiel, the sooner I’ll be out of there.
“Ready whenever you are,” I comment with no small amount of sarcasm and then I watch in horror as she pulls out a pack
“You can’t smoke in an airport!” I say but she lights up and blows smoke at me.
“Sure you can,” she says, “you want one?”
I shake my head. “What’s the scoop here, Agnes?”
“What’s your hurry, Lady Jane? I’ll tell you this for starters, you’ve got all the time in the world, we both have.”
She shakes with laughter and I want to hit her. I glare at her, hating her muffin-top thick waist that spills over the waistband of her tight black jeans. I hate her sleeve tattoos, her red and purple hair and most of all I hate her piercings all of which look infected. Nose, chin, ears, brows, all of them look disgusting.
“I tell you what, you annoying child,” I say, evenly, “talk now, or I’m leaving.”
“You can’t leave,” she says and she blows a smoke ring.
I lunge for her, and knock her off her bean bag and pin her to the ground. Her eyes are wide, like a panicked raccoon and the cigarette burns a hole in the carpet but I don’t care.
Agnes stops moving underneath me and she grins and lies still, looking up at me.
“You’re dead, Julia, dead, dead, dead.”
Pic by Tal Ben- Izak, partypix.ca
A fabulous event at the Ontario Librarian's Superconference! With Pam Mountain, Head Librarian, Annette Street Branch.
Pic by Tal Ben- Izak, partypix.ca