Coming of Age at the End of Days

Coming of Age at the End of Days Book Cover Coming of Age at the End of Days
Alice LaPlante
Fiction
Atlantic Monthly Press
2015-08-04
240

Alice LaPlante's acclaimed psychological thrillers are distinguished by their stunning synthesis of family drama and engrossing suspense. Her new novel is an affecting foray deeper into the creases of family life—and the light-and-dark battle of faith—as LaPlante delves into the barbed psyche of a teenager whose misguided convictions bear irrevocable consequences. Never one to conform, Anna always had trouble fitting in. Earnest and willful, as a young girl she quickly learned how to hide her quirks from her parents and friends. But when, at sixteen, a sudden melancholia takes hold of her life, she loses her sense of self and purpose. Then the Goldschmidts move in next door. They're active members of a religious cult, and Anna is awestruck by both their son, Lars, and their fervent violent prophecies for the Tribulation at the End of Days. Within months, Anna's life—her family, her home, her very identity—will undergo profound changes. But when her newfound beliefs threaten to push her over the edge, she must find her way back to center with the help of unlikely friends. An intimate story of destruction and renewal, New York Times bestselling author LaPlante delivers a haunting exploration of family legacies, devotion, and tangled relationships.

 

Review:

“Coming of Age at the End of Days” is a book about depression, other unspecified illnesses, loss, cults, religion as a whole, and what it means to be growing up in the midst of all of these things.  It’s an interesting concept, but the execution left something to be desired.

The character development was actually very extensive.  However, the main character, Anne, was an extremely unsympathetic character.  Depression is involved, along with some other unspecified medical issues that may or may not also be physical.  None of that is ever clarified, but there are definitely clues that something else is going on.  The problem is that these things are presented, along with her home life, as reasons for why she acts the way she does.  While it is true in some of the instances, even if she were completely healthy with a perfect life she would still be the sort of person who is the walking equivalent of nails on a chalkboard.  It’s difficult to become lost in a story when you don’t care much about the main character.

The premise of mental illness and how cults exploit it to gain followers was promising, but the first two-thirds of the book dragged so much that the interesting parts were lost in a sea of banality.  I would have liked to see more details of the cult itself.  The last third of the book moved well and was enjoyable, but it required quite a bit of suspension of disbelief to go with it.  The ultimate conclusion felt as though it were an afterthought.

I gave “Coming of Age at the End of Days” three stars because technically the characters and plot are sound.  It’s the end product that needed some trimming.  Alice LaPlante is a very talented author, but this is definitely not her best work.  I’d give it a pass unless you’re a diehard fan.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations, Graphic Imagery, Violence, Self-Harm, Brief Mention of Underage Drinking

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