I like a little darkness with my fiction, so The Diviners
made me happy. Bray hits just about every hot spot from the 1920s: eugenics, the color line, spiritualist cults, prohibition, the aftermath of World War I, the Chinese/Asian Exclusion Act, anarchist violence, Sacco and Vanzetti, Bolsheviks, the Scopes Monkey Trial - all of these topics and events play a part in Bray's story. For those wondering, that's a lot of heavy stuff to juggle! Clearly Bray did her homework in studying the era.
Belief plays a major role in the story:
-"There is no greater power on this earth than story.” Will paced the length of the room. “People think boundaries and borders build nations. Nonsense—words do. Beliefs, declarations, constitutions—words. Stories. Myths. Lies. Promises. History.”
-“People will believe anything if it means they can go on with their lives and not have to think too hard about it.”
And religion, especially fundamentalism, comes under scrutiny throughout:
-"The line between faith and fanaticism is a constantly shifting one,” Dr. Poblocki said. “When does belief become justification? When does right become rationale and crusade become crime?”
-“There is nothing more terrifying than the absoluteness of one who believes he's right.”
-“Evie didn’t mind yelling, but she hated feeling judged. It got under her skin and made her feel small and ugly and unfixable.”
-“How do you invent a religion?” Evie asked. Will looked over the top of his spectacles. “You say, ‘God told me the following,’ and then wait for people to sign up.”
You might have guessed by now that there's a healthy dose of cynicism:
“She was tired of being told how it was by this generation, who’d botched things so badly. They’d sold their children a pack of lies: God and country. Love your parents. All is fair. And then they’d sent those boys, her brother, off to fight a great monster of a war that maimed and killed and destroyed whatever was inside them. Still they lied, expecting her to mouth the words and play along. Well, she wouldn’t. She knew now that the world was a long way from fair. She knew the monsters were real.”
But really, who can blame the teenaged "Diviners" for being cynical? Their lives have been marked by death, abuse, discrimination, being treated like a lab rat, and now various forms of involvement in solving a series of grisly ritual murders. Behind the glamorous appearance of flappers, there's some serious pain. The Diviners
seethes with this pain, making it a fairly uncomfortable read at times. This one isn't for the younger readers, that's for sure.
Have fun reading The Diviners
kids, and keep the lights on.