New York pre-9/11. Pam, Daniel and Joe lead the life of a more or less successful punk band. They live their dream, not much money coming in, but they can do what they like to. They are happy and luck is on their side when Pam accidentally falls pregnant and Joe has a hit single. Despite his success, Joe spends most of his time with young Flora, his simple but caring mind is the best that could happen to the girl. With the attacks on the World Trade Center, everything changes for this small community. Daniel brings his family away from the Big Apple to his wife’s parents in Washington where Flora will then grow up. She does not become a dreamer like her parents but is a strong activist for environmental matters and has the strong conviction that things can be changed.
Doxology – an expression of praise to God. There are different kinds of god in Nell Zink’s novel who are worshipped. From the punk rock gods who are idolised by their groupies to politicians who promise their voters more than the world to lovers for whom they are ready to give up their ideals. Yet, none of them can fulfil the promises made and at last, the characters have to fend for themselves.
I find it especially hard to write a review on the novel since I still don’t know what to think of it. I certainly admire her style of writing, it is lively and witty and her characters are authentic and powerful. However, it is hard to determine what the novel is about and what the author wants to point at. There is the (not so) easy-going time of the 1990s punk rock scene in New York, where life outside the bubble can be ignored. Family strings are cut and the musicians submerge totally in their artistic bath. 9/11 not only ends carefree life in New York but also their punk rock dream and the story shifts to Flora and her growing-up in Washington. In her early 20s, she could hardly be more different from what her parents were at that age. Her focus is totally different – well, she belongs to another generation with other topics.
Flora is the product of her grandparents’ and parents’ decisions – and she herself has to make some major choices that will impact her existence. Maybe this is what the book is about after all: life as a chain of decisive moments that lead you in one or the other direction. Quite often there is no actual “right” or “wrong”, much more, the real implications only reveal themselves later. Does it help to ponder about past decisions? No, life goes on and you have to face it anyhow. A wonderfully written family history which is nevertheless not easy to grasp.