Synopses & Reviews
Keith Donohue has been praised for his vivid imagination and for evoking “the otherworldly with humor and the ordinary with wonder” (Audrey Niffenegger
). His first novel, The Stolen Child
, was a national bestseller, and his second novel, Angels of Destruction
, was hailed as “a magical tale of love and redemption that is as wonderfully written as it is captivating” (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
). Centuries of June
is a bold departure, a work of dazzling breadth and technical virtuosity.
Set in the bathroom of an old house just before dawn on a night in June, Centuries of June is a black comedy about a man who is attempting to tell the story of how he ended up on the floor with a hole in his head. But he keeps getting interrupted by a series of suspects — eight women lying in the bedroom just down the hall. Each woman tells a story drawn from five centuries of American myth and legend in a wild medley of styles and voices.
Centuries of June is a romp through history, a madcap murder mystery, an existential ghost story, and a stunning tour de force at once ingenious, sexy, inspiring, and ultimately deeply moving.
"Face down on the bathroom floor after 'a conk on the skull,' Jack, the narrator of Donohue's unconventional latest (after Angels of Destruction), embarks on an epic and darkly funny journey through time and space without traveling much beyond his own bathroom. Visited by seven ghostly women, and eventually his wife, Jack stands in for disappointing men throughout history as each of the phantom visitors tells him her life story. From Dolly, the Tlingit woman who marries a shape-shifting bear, to Alice, who winds up on the wrong end of the Salem witch trials, and Bunny, a New York City housewife whose search for love goes very wrong, the women each accuse Jack, tell their story, and then fade into a chorus with the others. When Jack finally hears out his own wife, the reason for the night's events including stopped clocks, talking cats, and what could be the ghost of Samuel Beckett becomes clear. Donohue's faultless eye for character and keen sense of humor keeps what could easily become a muddled mess pristine, with members of his quorum shining individually but also acting as cogs in the larger story's machinery. There are moments when the reader is left to wonder how things can possibly come together, but it's worthwhile to trust Donohue's narrators as they lead this puzzling and greatly satisfying trip. (May)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
"Donohue's exploration of the fall, and the rise, of one anonymous contemporary guy, is sly, surprising and entertaining. Centuries of June [resonates] with one of humanity's oldest impulses, the drive to make order out of chaos via narrative and story." Buffalo News
"Donohue's tour de force blends aspects of time travel and reincarnation genres into a witty whole. With a touch of David Mitchell and Audrey Niffenegger, but a witty style uniquely the author's own, this novel about a clueless man, who may in some future life get it right, is a pleasure to read." Library Journal
"Donohue's polished prose holds the story together and offers a more than satisfying ending." Booklist
"A tour de force in its mastery of styles, the book also has moments of high silliness — though toward the end Donohue weaves the threads of plot together in a surprising and affecting way." Kirkus Reviews
"Part ghost story, part psychological mystery and part vaudeville show. Think Scheherazade by way of Tristram Shandy by way of The Sixth Sense. Washington Post
About the Author
Keith Donohue is the author of the acclaimed novels The Stolen Child and Angels of Destruction. For several years he was a speechwriter at the National Endowment for the Arts in Washington, D.C., and he now works at another federal agency. He lives with his family in Wheaton, Maryland.
Review A Day
"In the opening scene of Keith Donohue's novel Centuries of June
, we see the bloody collision of the narrator's head against the bathroom floor. "In that instant," Jack says, "the blood became a secondary concern to the hole in the back of my head." When Jack rises from the bathroom floor, his head wound already healing, he returns to his bedroom to find eight unfamiliar women in his bed, any of whom may have delivered the knock to his noggin. To help sort out this mystery, a man appears who may or may not be Jack's long-departed father, though he also bears a likeness to playwright Samuel Beckett." Andrew Clearly, Rain Taxi
(Read the entire Rain Taxi review