Synopses & Reviews
As a small child, Josiah believed that his father’s absence could be explained by the simple fact that he was a high ranking alien official on the planet Parnuckle. It explained so much else, too, like why Josiah should eat nothing but chocolate (Parnucklians eat nothing but chocolate), and why he should be proud of and idolize his father, the Keymaster of Gozer, even though they’d never met.
But as time goes on and the gaps in this mythology widen, Josiah is faced with two possibilities: either it’s all very real or it’s all very pretend. This betrayal comes into sharper focus when, three weeks before his sixteenth birthday, Josiah is released back into his mother’s care after two years in a group home. His mother is about to marry Johnson Davis, and when Josiah, his mother, Johnson Davis, and his daughter Bree Davis—a prematurely mature girl with her own history of parental betrayal—attempt to live together as an all-American nuclear family, the myths underpinning all of their lives come chaotically and absurdly unspooled.
This startling, stylish, hilarious debut novel explores what it means to grow up an alien in your own family and your own life. It’s a story about the secret, solitary lives of kids held hostage by the caprices of their caretakers. In Parnucklian for Chocolate, B.H. James has taken the alien heart of family life and made it recognizable and relatable to all—extraterrestrial or otherwise.
"The gradual awakening of a teenager whose mom protects him with a fanciful story reveals an unnecessarily cruel world. Josiah grows up believing, as his mother tells him, that he is the product of an alien abduction from the planet Parnuckle, whose inhabitants eat chocolate, never sleep, and don't need to bathe. But when he and his mother move in with her new boyfriend, Johnson Davis, Johnson grows concerned about Josiah's abnormal development particularly after his daughter Bree, a rebellious teenager, crawls into bed with Josiah and begins to figure in his fantasies, to the alarm of both parents. Josiah clings to the story of Parnuckle, now a place to which he and Bree plan to escape, even as his new stepfather tries to convince him that the planet isn't real. Tantalizing hints surrounding Josiah's mother's background aside, her absence as a complete character her name is never even revealed makes her stories that much more puzzling. Her inability to take responsibility for her son's problems tears the family apart more permanently than Josiah's bad behavior." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“Like Chauncey Gardiner in Jerzy Kosinski’s Being There
, Josiah—the teenage protagonist in B.H. James’ fantastically quirky debut novel, Parnucklian for Chocolate
—is a bit of a blank slate. Raised and home-schooled by a pathological mother who tells him his father’s an alien from the planet Parnuckle, Josiah bewilderedly bumbles through psych wards, group homes, and the sexual minefields of contemporary teenagerhood with a jejune artlessness that is simultaneously disturbing and heart-rending. In hypnotically rolling prose skewered throughout with sharp wit and details, James slyly unveils Josiah’s alien and alienated perspective as a wide-eyed mirror to the minor horrors underlying suburban surfaces, a social anthropologist to the kitschy absurdities of contemporary pop culture, and an arbiter for the delusional, science-fictive nature of ‘home’ and ‘family.’”
—Lee Ann Roripaugh, author of On the Cusp of a Dangerous Year
“Parnucklian for Chocolate is a hilarious, ingeniously absurd coming-of-age tale. James’sentences are delightfully self-conscious and playful, clever but not too clever, and entirely original. His characters are often foolish, even pathetic, but they nevertheless manage to deliver a powerful message: that the power of the imagination is the only thing capable of saving lives.”—Amy Hassinger, author of The Priest’s Madonna and Nina: Adolescence
Josiah was told that his father was an important official from a planet called Parnuckle. Through his childhood Josiah wrote letters to the man, giving them to his mother to mail. Sometimes his father replied. Josiah had trouble at school when he told classmates and teachers who he was and where he was from. As the trouble escalated, the boy was sent to a group home and was eventually released into the custody of his mother and her fiancé, Johnson Davis. Davis's daughter Bree immediately starts to take advantage of Josiah and his extreme naïveté, introducing him to sex, drugs, and alcohol in the space of just a few weeks. When Josiah's "real" father appears at his door, light finally dawns for Josiah. VERDICT James, an English teacher, has published in various journals, but this is his first novel. His prose is convoluted. His characters are absurd. Yet this silly story has a charm all its own and infers that we are all, maybe, a little bit crazy. It will appeal to readers of the absurd and to those who appreciate comic coming-of-age stories.
—Joanna Burkhardt, Library Journal
A classic naïf, Josiah is reminiscent of Chauncey Gardner in Jerzy Kozinski’s satirical novella, Being There. First novelist James seems to have similar satirical intent in his treatment of family and the condition, in Josiah’s case, of being an outsider.
“The gradual awakening of a teenager whose mom protects him with a fanciful story reveals an unnecessarily cruel world. Josiah grows up believing, as his mother tells him, that he is the product of an alien abduction from the planet Parnuckle, whose inhabitants eat chocolate, never sleep, and don’t need to bathe.”
Parnucklian for Chocolate is a dark comedy about what it is to grow up an alien in your own family and your own life.
About the Author
B.H. James was born and raised an only child in Galt, California. He attended Catholic schools and had a dog named Pepsi. He went to Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo where he majored in Sociology, which was slightly useless as he mostly took creative writing courses. He took too long to graduate, mostly due to his preoccupation with pursuing a career in amateur rodeo. Somewhere in his late twenties, he got tired of driving to and fro throughout the country catching steers, so he took a job teaching high school English in the International Baccalaureate program in Stockton, California, finding there his two loves: teaching and his wife, Liz, a fellow English teacher. B.H. holds a Master’s of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Nebraska. It was there that Parnucklian for Chocolate, B.H.’s first novel, began to take shape. B.H. currently lives in Lodi, California with his wife, baby boy, and their cats Rooster and Mike Tyson.