Act of God by Jill Ciment

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Act of God by Jill Ciment

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sophie Diamond
Reviewed by Sophie Diamond
Summary: Observant, witty, original and such a worryingly accurate portrayal of society. A clever, amusing story that will stick with you.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 192 Date: July 2016
Publisher: Pushkin Press
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781782272113

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Act of God is a story about two ageing twins who find a worrying mushroom growing in their cupboard, a landlady searching for the spotlight and a Russian immigrant whose greatest fear is insignificance. What the insurance company describes as an act of God brings their already overlapped, Brooklyn lives in to sharper focus. What do you do when disaster threatens? Is it survival of the fittest or should we love thy neighbour?

This story is nothing short of superb. The characters are wonderfully crafted and the story of the glowing mushrooms is deliciously disturbing, and from the insurance company's perspective, worryingly accurate. This is a very observant writer, capturing various forms of life and interaction on an honest and human level. Nothing about this story, save maybe the glowing mushrooms, is far-fetched, it's bravely realistic and in its realism, society does not come out with a glowing review.

Kat and Edith, the ageing twins are fantastic foils, their bond both strong and disdainful, full of secrets and resentments without proper resolution. Vida and Ashley also seem to mirror each other, Vida with her established career fading into insignificance, and young Ashley both hating and envying Vida. This story did not do anything I expected it to, it's utterly, utterly original which I think is one of the highest compliments I could give it. You could dissect this book to pieces with all the inferences and allusions, but despite being very clever, it is not at all inaccessible. In fact, it's very easy to read.

The main point I took away from this book was: be nicer to your neighbour. The lack of sincerity, warmth and emotional depth from some of the characters was astounding, and not too far from real life neighbours. On the other hand, some characters do the right thing when you wouldn't expect them to. Without giving too much away, it's a sad reflection on society.

The only reason I put this as buy 'maybe' is that I wouldn't want to re-read it, but it is definitely, definitely worth reading once. And definitely worth making a selection of friends and family read it so you can discuss.

Thank you to the author, the publisher and the bookbag for my copy. We also have a review of Heroic Measures by Jill Ciment.

If you like the sound of this, or want to try an act of god on a much larger scale, read X-isle by Steve Augarde.

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