The Next Queen of Heaven by Gregory Maguire

Every time I get a few chapters deep in a Gregory Maguire book I have the same thought, "What the heck did I get myself into?" But by the time I'm rounding the midway point of the story, I realize I've made yet another premature judgment. I think an explanation of my teetering opinions lie with the writing style of the author. The text tends to be a pinch of cryptic, a dash of dark with a splash of cynical. Although I enter each book with hesitation, I'm never disappointed with the ride.

cover to The Next Queen of Heaven The party mix of characters were as charming as they were oddly paired. A gay singing trio with a group of elder nuns? Neighboring Pentecostals with Catholics?

As with all groups of people with differences, you had the common stereotypical judgments, though these characters seemed to mesh despite themselves. Whether intentional or not, the showcase of camaraderie between these rare couplings strengthened my faith in brotherly love. We don't have to see eye to eye to walk side by side.

My single peeve with this book was the ending. I was thirty pages from the back cover and I struggled to figure out how it could possibly wrap up. The last pages held what was possibly the best part of the story but from there it takes a dip into confusion. There were two characters at the end, one was exactly where you expected them to be and the other was just an odd placement. I didn't really get it.

Despite Gregory Maguire's unconventional web of storytelling, it's well worth weathering his wacky world of wit for the pearl that awaits inside.