All Shall Be Well; And All Shall Be Well; And All Manner of Things Shall Be Well (4 stars)

TOD WODICKA

All Shall Be Well; And All Shall Be Well; And All Manner of Things Shall Be Well (Jonathan Cape)

DEBUT NOVEL

What an exceptionally odd yet utterly compelling debut novel this is, quite unlike the typical, semi-autobiographical splurge most first-time authors deliver. In All Shall Be Well . . . , American writer Wodicka has created a hilarious yet tragic anti-hero up there with Garp and Yossarian in the form of Burt Hecker, a sixty-something medieval re-enactor and widower with a serious home-made mead habit and two dysfunctional and estranged children. When Hecker, mentally retreating into the sanctuary of his faux medieval world, sells the family home and goes on a pilgrimage across modern Europe to find his son, using the cover of the 900th birthday celebrations of St Hildegard von Bingen, his resulting dislocation and descent into chaos is both fantastically funny and incredibly moving. A deeply intelligent and perceptive writer, Wodicka wields his talents lightly but effectively, creating an oddball family saga imbued with incredible resonance and pathos that will live long in the memory. Highly recommended.

(Doug Johnstone)

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