Bray, Libba. The Diviners. New York: Little, Brown, & Co., 2012. Print.
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I saw Libba Bray at TLA last year and actually got to have my picture made with her. I bought and she autographed my book later that same day. SO COOL!
The Diviners is part murder mystery, part historical fiction and a whole lot of creepy fun to read. "There is no greater power on this earth than a story" (Bray 407).
The setting is New York City in the 1920s. The book follows Evie O'Neill's story, but mixes in others as it progresses. Something is happening. Something is waking up and casting its shadow over the city. Something is coming. Perhaps Solomon's Comet is the catalyst or maybe it's just a coincidence. There are several murders in the city that seem connected because of the bizarre nature the victims' bodies are left. Is it possible for a dead man to return to life?
Evie has a special supernatural ability. She can tell things about people through touching something they own. This ability is what actually got her sent to New York to live with her uncle Will--a curator at the Museum of the Creepy Crawlies (at least that's its nickname). It's actually named The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition and the Occult, and it is really a treasure house of oddities, including the two employees. Evie wants to have a good time. She's a modern girl, a flapper. These city murders are putting a damper on her carefree attitude and social life. So are her dreams.
"Naughty John, Naughty John, does his work with his apron on. Cuts your throat and takes your bones, sells 'em off for a coupla stones" is a song that reappears often in the story. The mystery around the song is discovered and explained (but not on this blog!). Naughty John is indeed naughty.
There are many plot lines running through this story. The issues of immigration, gang violence, religious fervor, moral/racial superiority, patriotism are all scratched in this story. It's quite a lot to read (578 pages!)
The Brethren, "a vanished religious cult in upstate New York" plays an important role in what's happening in the city, including religious symbols, talismans and Knowles' End, a once large estate that falls to the young Ida Knowles to maintain (Bray 208).
Memphis's story was very interesting. His brother Isiah seems to be the "special" one in the family, but I was intrigued by Memphis. He's pretty special, too. I thought there might be some more of the story when the beautiful Theta, the Ziegfeld girl, and Memphis collided, but Bray didn't explore that storyline as much as I hoped.
Blind Bill was another character that I wanted to know more and find out what exactly were his motives. Was he good? bad? both?
Overall, I liked how Bray weaves the stories together. I'd read almost 200 pages and felt like I was just barely started the story (not a complaint, but quite a compliment). The complaint I do have with the book, though, is the ending. For me, it was not resolved. Well, ok, parts were, but then it seemed to have a chapter that should have been at the front of the book, one that seemed like a shift in authorship--I thought I might be reading a Faulkner novel with lots of detail instead of the conclusion to this story (The chapter is titled "The Man in the Stovepipe Hat," and I missed or zoned out to the connection and who was the man). In fact, now that I think about it, there seemed to be several "loose" chapters that were either throwing "red herrings" to the reader or Bray forgot to connect them (or this reader has forgotten the connection). What exactly is Project Buffalo and how does all of this connect to Evie and Sam? I can't wait to read the second book (coming in March) entitled Lair of Dreams.
In the Author's Note section in the back, I appreciate that Bray writes, "I've tried to remain as faithful as I can to the time period and actual history while crafting a story that includes mystery, magic, monsters. and the unexplained---or as we call that around my house, just another Tuesday" (Bray 581). Libba Bray is so funny!