I chose the title for this post to be "Horrible Horror Movie" because that's what this book is: it's horrible and a horror movie, but it's terrible at being a horror movie.
There are some nice touches if you want to make a horror movie out of this: the simple, human details like finding their empty pajamas along with the rest of their stuff. But the trouble is even in a horror movie, there has to be some compassion for the characters and what they're going through. This book, told in its detached tone, has none. There's never a chance that this book will touch some primal nerve and make the reader go, "OMG! This could happen to me!" Instead, the book is more concerned with going "Haw-Haw! Be glad this isn't you!"
Anyway, so Vicki wakes up and finds her parents and sister missing. The book does a decent job of creating tension as she slowly tries to piece together what happened based on her observations and what she's heard on the news.
Of course, judging by the sample of news program we get, they have the worst newscaster ever.
"Here again," the newsman said, "is one of the strangest images we have received from this phenomenon no one can explain. This video was shot by the uncle of a soccer player at a missionary boarding school in Indonesia. Watch as the players race down the field. In slow motion now, watch as all but one player disappears. Their uniforms float to the ground as the ball bounds away and the sole remaining player stops and stares in horror. Watch as the cameraman keeps the video rolling and turns from side to side, showing he is one of the few adults remaining, the rest having disappeared right out of their clothes."
Every bit of this is wrong. The newsman wouldn't have to say what the readers can see right on the screen unless this was a radio broadcast and even then, the details come across as clunky. "This phenomenon no one can explain"? Doesn't the fact it is a phenomenon kind of make it clear that it can't be explained?
Vicki didn't know what to think. Part of her was glad her family was right. She wouldn't wish her own feelings on anyone, especially on people she loved. Loved. Yes, she realized, she loved them. Each of them. All of them. She only hoped they were in heaven. It wasn't like they were dead.
Fred has talked about this quite a bit, how the PMD Rapture theory amounts to a desperate desire to avoid Death, which awaits everybody, RTC or not, and makes a good point. Gone is gone, it doesn't matter if it's being whisked to heaven like Elijah or being sent there by a drunk driver. Gone is gone.
Even the book somewhat acknowledges this fact with the next line.
But they might as well have been. She had become an orphan overnight.
Meanwhile, Lionel, too, is just waking up and finding that his family is gone, except for Uncle Andre and, like Vicki, instantly comes to the conclusion that it was the rapture.
Okay, I admit I did cut Ellanjay some slack when I said it was possible that Judd would see empty clothes and instantly think rapture. I felt that having grown up around PMD nuts in a PMD-preaching church that he would be familiar with the complicated mythos surrounding the rapture and know how to recognize it. It was a leap but one I was willing to make.
I was even willing to accept that Vicki might come to the rapture conclusion, given that her parents, as Assholes for Christ, probably would have brought it up again and again. But Lionel? I need more proof that he would come to the rapture conclusion.
Ellanjay doesn't tell us much about Lionel's church. They give us enough details for us to know that it is a stereotypical black church where people shout and dance in the aisles. If Jenkins was a great writer, like James Baldwin, he would go into detail about this church, touching upon the clothes and the beliefs of the people seated in the pews as well as their hypocrises. But as said before, Jenkins prefers to paint with broad strokes and hope his audience picks up from there.
On Wednesday, I'll take on Ryan's chapter. Turns out Ruby was right: his is a tragic story.