- STAFF PICKS
- GIFTS + GIFT CARDS
- SELL BOOKS
- FIND A STORE
This item may be
Check for Availability
Angels of Destructionby Keith Donohue
Keith Donohue has done it again. His second novel, Angels of Destruction, is as fascinating a story as its predecessor, The Stolen Child. But, while his first book was based on Celtic fairy myth, Angels pulls from several legends and myths.
Darkness falls on the Quinn household when teenage daughter Erica runs away from home, her story being one many of us parents have lived through: she's dissatisfied with her life, parents, school and believes she can only find true love and happiness by leaving with her boyfriend and getting on with her life. Ten years later, on a cold and snowy night, a little girl comes knocking on the door of Erica's widowed mother, Margaret, who believes the child to be her runaway daughter's daughter.
Donohue expertly blurs the line between the surreal and the real. Everyday trials and family relationships are woven together with ancient stories of angels, both light and dark. And, as in most good fantasy writing, the author's craft lies in making the reader wonder if it could all be true.
Synopses & Reviews
Keith Donohue's first novel, The Stolen Child, was a national bestseller hailed as "captivating" (USA Today), "luminous and thrilling" (Washington Post), and "wonderful...So spare and unsentimental that it's impossible not to be moved" (Newsweek).
His new novel, Angels of Destruction, opens on a winter's night, when a young girl appears at the home of Mrs. Margaret Quinn, a widow who lives alone. A decade earlier, she had lost her only child, Erica, who fled with her high school sweetheart to join a radical student group known as the Angels of Destruction. Before Margaret answers the knock in the dark hours, she whispers a prayer and then makes her visitor welcome at the door.
The girl, who claims to be nine years old and an orphan with no place to go, beguiles Margaret, offering some solace, some compensation, for the woman's loss. Together, they hatch a plan to pass her off as her newly found granddaughter, Norah Quinn, and enlist Sean Fallon, a classmate and heartbroken boy, to guide her into the school and town.
Their conspiracy is vulnerable not only to those children and neighbors intrigued by Norah's mysterious and magical qualities but by a lone figure shadowing the girl who threatens to reveal the child's true identity and her purpose in Margaret's life. Who are these strangers really? And what is their connection to the past, the Angels, and the long-missing daughter?
Angels of Destruction is an unforgettable story of hope and fear, heartache and redemption. The saga of the Quinn family unfolds against an America wracked by change. As it delicately dances on the line between the real and the imagined, this mesmerizing new novel confirms Keith Donohue's standing as one of our most inspiring and inventive novelists.
"Tweaking some thematic elements of his previous novel, The Stolen Child, Donohoe now tells the story of Norah, a nine-year-old who appears on the doorstep of Margaret Quinn, a widow living a solitary existence in a small Pennsylvania town in 1985. Margaret eagerly takes in Norah to make up for the loss of her own daughter, Erica, who disappeared 10 years earlier after running away to join the Angels of Destruction, a West Coast revolutionary group. Margaret passes off Norah as her granddaughter and enrolls her in school, where Norah becomes friendly with a boy who's been abandoned by his father. Complications ensue when Margaret's sister arrives and has to be convinced that Norah is Erica's daughter. Sandwiched between the story of Margaret and Norah's unusual relationship is the flashback narrative of teenage Erica's road adventures with her boyfriend on their way to join the Angels of Destruction. Norah's unexplained origins form the enigmatic core of this story, and though she comes across as more of a novelistic conceit than a flesh and blood character, the novel movingly illustrates the quest for connection hardwired into every human heart." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
By day, Keith Donohue is the consummate Washington bureaucrat, toiling away in the National Archives. But when he's not approving grants for the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, he's summoning strange, fey creatures for his marvelous novels. Donohue's first book, "The Stolen Child" (2006), was a surprise best-seller that recast Irish folklore in a mid-20th-century American setting.... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) His new work, "Angels of Destruction," similarly finds the miraculous in the everyday by exploring the fissures that grief leaves in the life of Margaret Quinn, whose only child, Erica, left home at 17 and has not been seen since. The novel opens on a bitterly cold night in 1985, when the now-widowed Margaret hears a knock at the door of her suburban home. She opens it to find a bespectacled girl in a ragged coat, half-frozen, a battered suitcase between her legs. The girl identifies herself as Norah, an orphan; but Margaret immediately imagines a different identity for her. "On her fingertips, she calculated the years, thinking all the while of the possibilities. Her daughter had been gone for a decade, and the girl appeared to be just shy of nine. Old enough to be her own granddaughter, had such a child ever existed." Almost immediately, Margaret decides to pass the child off as Erica's, sent to live with her grandmother. Sean Fallon, a boy bereft by his father's abandonment, befriends the peculiar new student in his third-grade class and agrees to keep secret that she is not really Margaret's grandchild. His devotion to Norah blooms into the perplexed, grateful adoration of a lonely 9-year-old boy, at once dogged and heartbreaking. But Sean soon witnesses strange manifestations of Norah's distinctly unchildlike talents: She folds origami cranes, then makes them fly; she blows smoke rings that would make Gandalf envious. More disturbingly, one night Sean glances into her mouth and sees a galaxy of stars. Their brief winter idyll is shattered when Norah begins speaking of — and even demonstrating — signs and wonders to her classmates. The second part of "Angels of Destruction" flashes back to 1975. It shows the dissolution of the Quinn family as Erica falls in love with her high school sweetheart, Wiley. Erica's father (and Margaret's husband), Paul, steps from the shadows here. A doctor who served in the Army Medical Corps during World War II, Paul grows increasingly estranged from his daughter. Aflame with adolescent self-righteousness at what she perceives as her father's betrayal of his Hippocratic oath, Erica is drawn into an obsessive relationship with Wiley, and then into Wiley's own obsession with the Angels of Destruction, a group of West Coast radicals who fall somewhere between the Weathermen and the Symbionese Liberation Army. When Wiley decides to join the revolution, Erica goes with him on a surreal, violent journey reminiscent of David Lynch's "Wild at Heart." During a dreamy interlude along the Natchez Trace in Tennessee, the runaway lovers take refuge in a woodland cottage occupied by a grief-wracked, perhaps mad, old woman and her granddaughter, an otherworldly, bespectacled child named Una. Echoes and presentiments of Norah's relationship to Margaret and Sean unfold. Part 3 returns to 1985, where the subtle linkings between past and future, grief and acceptance and, most of all, love in its myriad manifestations — parental, sororal, sexual, divine — converge and multiply in a remarkable, kaleidoscopic ending. In its depiction of a modern world where the inexplicable coexists with the commonplace, "Angels of Destruction" evokes many other works: Tony Kushner's "Angels in America"; films like Wim Wenders' "Wings of Desire" and Nancy Savoca's "Household Saints"; John Crowley's "Aegypt" tetralogy; Rilke's "Duino Elegies." Like the characters in these works, Margaret, Erica and Sean all entertain angels unawares. Or do they? Donohue never quite reveals the mystery at the heart of Norah's sudden appearance, and that makes "Angels of Destruction" all the more satisfying and, yes, believable. Literary and historical clues are scattered throughout: references to the atomic bomb; a spectral man in fedora and camel-hair coat who pursues Norah and haunts Margaret; and an oblique nod to the Liber Juratus, a 14th-century manuscript containing a roll call of angels. The talisman that both Norah and Una pass on to those they love is a child's teacup with a chip in it, which invokes Auden's great poem "As I Walked Out One Evening": "The crack in the tea-cup opens / A lane to the land of the dead." "Angels of Destruction" doesn't shrink from the tragedies and inevitable separations that dog us. The book's coda is beautiful and wrenching, yet still leaves its protagonists and readers open to the possibility that the miraculous, once glimpsed, might recur. "Love is not consolation, it is light," wrote Simone Weil. In these bleak times, we can thank Donohue for opening a door in a darkened room. Reviewed by Elizabeth Hand, whose 10th novel, 'Wonderwall,' about the poet Arthur Rimbaud, will be published this fall., Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
(hide most of this review)
"[A] strange and finely written novel. Donohue has a talent for using small details to draw his characters, and the result is a dark and unsettling story that takes hold of the reader. Recommended." Library Journal
"With ghostly visions and otherworldly experiences throughout, the story occupies both real and imagined worlds, but it fails to do so in a captivating or credulous way, and the entire narrative feels shrouded in clouds from beginning to end." Kirkus Reviews
An unforgettable story about faith and fear, Angels of Destruction tells the mesmerizing story of Norah, a nine-year-old girl who seems to materialize out of thin air when she arrives one bitterly cold night on the doorstep of Margaret Quinn.
About the Author
Keith Donohue's first novel, The Stolen Child, was a New York Times bestseller. For many years a ghostwriter, he now works at a federal governmental agency in Washington, D.C. He has published short stories and literary criticism, most recently an introduction to the collected works of Flann O'Brien. Donohue holds a Ph.D. in English from the Catholic University of America.
What Our Readers Are Saying
Average customer rating based on 2 comments: