Strange Heaven is tearfully hilarious, as funny and appalling as reality. Bridget Murphy, almost eighteen, has come to Halifax from industrial Cape Breton, had her baby, and given it up for adoption. Transferred to the psych ward of the children's hospital, she's incarcerated with five seriously disturbed teenagers and a flock of wan children.
She's depressed, they say. Apathetic. Bridget is a bit detached, but Four South is peaceful compared with the chaos back home. Her grandmother, Margaret P., raves and prays from her bed, banging the wall with her bedpan. Bridget's parents, Robert and Joan, take care of her and her mentally handicapped son, Rollie. Joan tries to keep the lid on, but she's no match for Robert's wild profanity, Margaret's dementia, and Rollie's efforts to join the fray. Uncle Albert, a kind man who saves his eloquent wrath for outsiders, springs Bridget from the hospital for Christmas.
But home is more chaotic than ever, and she's sick of her boozy friends and the whining of the baby's father. She had half planned to hibernate at home till kingdom come, but it's become like a lurid movie she saw eons ago and she's forgotten the plot. Her future may be unclear, but she has a good idea of the direction it won't take.
"Lynn Coady is out to bust the stereotype; she writes about her home with irreverence, ambivalence, and a lot of humour."
"An exciting debut ... rivalling Roddy Doyle's black comedies of Dublin life."
"Her work is among the most noteworthy in the country."
"A stellar first novel ... both nightmarish and laugh-out-loud funny."
"Cape Breton humour at its blackest, most profane and politically incorrect best."