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by David Homel

David Homel has delivered unto us a novel-length parable of sex, violence, sin, and a dusty old Jewish prophet-peddler’s wish to reveal the Messiah. The Messiah in this novel is Sabbitha Hunter, an 18-year-old blond bombshell who escapes small town America after her parents die. Dressed in black (not because she is mourning, but to avert wandering eyes), Ms. Hunter hops on a bus to get out of town, seek adventure, and forget the incestuous affair she had been carrying on with her Uncle Tommy. Sabbitha gets the bus driver to drop her off beside a deserted wilderness settlement, where she subsequently meets Nathan Gazarra, a travelling peddler who convinces her (and nearly everyone else they meet) that she is the Messiah who has come to change the world.

Bedlam, of course, follows, partly because the peddler tells Sabbitha that her message is, “All that was forbidden is now possible.” The Messiah’s devotees take her message to heart, delivering chaos and confusion, promiscuous sex and murder to the neighbouring communities. The world changes, but also it does not. People break their old patterns of behaviour, but a new social order does not emerge.

In short, the novel follows a predictable path. The characters talk a lot about change, but they do not develop. The settings are particular, but nondescript. The ideas that support the narrative are lightly handled and disappointingly illustrated. At the end of a century that has featured Communist and Nazi atrocities in the name of utopian ideals, we have a right to expect a more complex presentation of the dangers of dreaming.