Hey Nostradamus!

Hey Nostradamus!

by Douglas Coupland

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Pregnant and secretly married, Cheryl Anway scribbles what becomes her last will and testament on a school binder shortly before a rampaging trio of misfit classmates gun her down in a high school cafeteria. Overrun with paranoia, teenage angst, and religious zeal in the massacre's wake, this sleepy suburban neighborhood declares its saints, brands its demons, and moves on. But for a handful of people still reeling from that horrific day, life remains permanently derailed. Four dramatically different characters tell their stories: Cheryl, who calmly narrates her own death; Jason, the boy no one knew was her husband, still marooned ten years later by his loss; Heather, the woman trying to love the shattered Jason; and Jason's father, Reg, whose rigid religiosity has separated him from nearly everyone he loves. Hey Nostradamus! is an unforgettable portrait of people wrestling with spirituality and with sorrow and its acceptance.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781596917545
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication date: 12/02/2008
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 424,200
File size: 276 KB

About the Author

Douglas Coupland first came to prominence as the author of Generation X (1995). He followed that with a sequence of ever-more daring and inventive novels, including Life After God, Girlfriend in a Coma and Hey Nostradamus! He lives in Vancouver.

Read an Excerpt

Internationally bestselling author Douglas Coupland’s eighth novel explores grief, faith and redemption in the wake of a high school shooting.
Several years after the 1988 Delbrook Senior Secondary School massacre, the television cameras have moved on to the next horror show; but for a handful of people in this sleepy corner of North Vancouver, life remains perpetually derailed.
Coupland writes this soul-searching tale in four voices -- Cheryl, who calmly narrates her own death; Jason, the boy no one knew was her husband, still marooned ten years later by his loss; Heather, the woman trying to love the shattered Jason; and Jason’s dad Reg, a cruelly religious man no one suspects is still worth loving.
With his inimitable style and his eye for the remarkable singularities of ordinary lives, Douglas Coupland masterfully weaves themes of alienation, violence and misguided faith throughout Hey Nostradamus!, creating a fateful and unforgettable knot from which three people must untangle their lives.
“I believe that what separates humanity from everything else in this world — spaghetti, binder paper, deep sea creatures, edelweiss and Mount McKinley — is that humanity alone has the capacity at any given moment to commit all possible sins. Even those of us who try to live a good and true life remain as far away from grace as the Hillside Strangler or any demon who ever tried to poison the village well. What happened that morning only confirms this.” -- Excerpt from Hey Nostradamus!

Author Biography: Douglas Coupland was born on a Canadian Armed Forces base in Baden-Söllingen, Germany, on December 30, 1961. He is the author of the novels Miss Wyoming, Generation X, Microserfs, and Girlfriend in a Coma, among others. His most recent books are the novel All Families Are Psychotic and a book of essays and photographs, Souvenir of Canada. He attended Vancouver’s Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design, the Hokkaido College of Art and Design in Sapporo, Milan’s Istituto Europeo di Design, and the Japan/America Institute of Management Science in Honolulu and Tokyo. He lives and works in Vancouver as a novelist, designer and visual artist.

Table of Contents

1988: Cheryl1
1999: Jason43
2002: Heather147
2003: Reg229

Reading Group Guide

1. Discuss Cheryl’s description of the events in the cafeteria. Does her step-by-step account and her sense of calm make the actions of the young shooters seem more or less real? Is there immediacy here, or distance?

2. Which of the novel’s four narrative voices did you connect with the most? Which the least?

3. One reviewer has written that Cheryl is among the most “spiritually mature” characters in this novel. What do you think?

4. How did the time span of the novel (about 15 years) affect your view of the characters, and the event that set this story in motion?

5. Some reviewers have suggested that this is Douglas Coupland’s most spiritual book to date. Through his characters’ struggles with belief, is Douglas Coupland being supportive or critical of the Christian faith? Or a bit of both? Compare the different approaches to faith shown by the four main characters.

6. Discuss the epigraph from 1 Corinthians that appears at the start of the book. What is Coupland saying about hope and redemption in this novel? Are any of his characters redeemed? Ultimately, what forms does hope take in their lives?

7. Jason’s narrative exists in the form of an open letter to his brother Kent’s twin sons. Heather begins writing her story directly into official court transcripts at work. Reg posts thousands of copies of his narrative in the forest near Chilliwack. Discuss the importance of writing and correspondence in this novel. What might Coupland be saying about the act of writing in general, or about how we as a society deal with grief? Consider also the letters Jason receives from Cheryl’s family, the various letters to God that Cheryl begins composing in her head, and even the list that Jason leaves with the psychic.

8. The title of this book comes from Jason’s reaction to his mother’s “Nostradamus kick” after the massacre, as she searches the astrologer’s prophecies for some sign of it (page 91). Do you think the title fits the book? Why or why not? Discuss how foreseeing the future might relate to this novel.

9. What kind of a person is Heather? What is it about her that appeals to Jason, and allows Reg to open up to her – or perhaps even change?

10. How did your memories of school shootings like those at Columbine and the École Polytechnique affect your reading of this novel? Has Hey Nostradamus! changed the way you think about such horrific events and their aftermath?

11. Cheryl tells us that her conversion took place in her backyard as she sat surrounded by huckleberry bushes, experiencing the smells of warm cedar and dry fir. “The moment made me feel special, and yet, nothing makes a person less special than conversion – it… universalizes you.” Discuss the association of spirituality with the natural world in Hey Nostradamus!

12. Did your opinion of Reg change by the end of the book? Why or why not?

13. Jason tells us that a few celebrities emerged from the massacre: himself, first vilified, then cleared; Cheryl, whose GOD IS NOWHERE/GOD IS NOW HERE note was widely reported as miraculous; and the shooter who repented, only to be shot by the other two. What is Coupland saying about our need to find heroes and villains in such situations? And what is the media’s role in feeding, or creating, this need?

14. While reading, how did you feel about Coupland’s use of humour in the novel? Did it seem out of place at any point, considering the subject matter? Or did it seem to grow naturally out of his characters’ reactions to their experiences? Is embracing the humour, or everyday-ness, of difficult events sometimes the only way to make it through them?

Customer Reviews

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Hey Nostradamus! 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 47 reviews.
abbylibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In 1988 Cheryl, secretly married to her boyfriend and pregnant with his child, was shot and killed at her high school. This tragedy has lasting consequences that are explored through different narrators over the next 15 years.
lndgrr on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Interesting book about the after affects of a school shooting, told through the eyes of 4 people.
flydodofly on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
interesting read. must read more of coupland, he surpises me every time.
TanyaTomato on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My friend recommended this as very good, and I thought so in the beginning. Too bad that it became pointless in the end. One of those books that you think is so great until you get a third of the way through and you realize it is not going to end tying everything up. Maybe I just didn't get it.
mbergman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is narrated by 4 different characters over a decade after a Columbine-style school shooting. The first narrator is one of the victims in the hours just after the shooting (when she's aware that she's dead but does not know what her destiny will be; this part, in its subtlety & complexity, is what The Lovely Bones could have been but wasn't; her boyfriend, who held her as she died, as he's trying to cope a decade later; his new girlfriend, a wonderful character; & his father, a religious fanatic, who has made life hell for his son. The book deals in sophisticated ways with religious & spiritual issues.
wflooter480 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was the first (and only to date) Coupland novel I have read and when I first began reading it, my brow was furrowed. The first character's narrative was trite and I found myself completely disinterested in her story. After perservering through the first part, I finally realized that they way Coupland wrote was intentional. The characters were well developed and believable. In the end I loved this book.
prairiebee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
So who out there hasn¿t read Douglas Coupland? Until last week, I hadn¿t. Hey Nostradamus! is the ninth novel by the Canadian author and visual artist, with several more released since then, but it is the first work of his that I have read.The novel manages to explore dark themes while being a page-turner, and proved to be a wonderful introduction to his work.The beginning of the novel is captivating: in a high school in Vancouver in 1988, three students go on a shooting rampage, killing many of their peers. Seventeen-year-old student Cheryl, recently married and, even more recently, pregnant, is the final victim of the shootings. Her student husband Jason arrives in time to see her die.A strength of the book for me is that the story is told in four sections by four different characters: firstly Cheryl, whose engaging voice and sweet musings on the world provide the background for the initial tragedy. The second part of the story has us meeting up with her husband, Jason, eleven years after the massacre where he leads a sad, unconventional existence. Dealing with both the death of his young wife as well as his tough upbringing under the rule of his religious tyrant father, Jason is struggling to keep his head above water. He conveys his story to us through a letter written to his twin nephews, and as we follow his life we are certainly taken down a few roads we weren¿t expecting. In part three we are introduced to Heather, who begins dating Jason twelve years after the massacre. Heather is an endearing character going slowly crazy trying to piece together the puzzle that is Jason. The final, short, section of the book is told by Jason¿s father, Reg. He attempts to explain, too late, his religious fanaticism and what was behind the way he treated those close to him. Through each character¿s telling of the story we learn more about the other characters too.Hey Nostradamus! explores in detail the idea of faith, where it can take you and what happens when it unravels. It also explores loneliness, what it¿s like to try to be part of life but not quite able to exist in the world as everyone else does. Possibly there are lucky people who can¿t relate to this, but I can. Heather¿s character particularly reminded me of certain stages of my own life. The characters all rang true for me, and I had tears in my eyes more than once.I found this book to be well written and an absolute page-turner ¿ the kind of book you can¿t wait to get home to read. Judging by this novel, Coupland¿s mind works in ways different to most and I look forward to reading more of what he has come up with.My rating: 4.5 out of 5Highly recommended
worm on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Timely to be reading this book at a time when there are so many school shootings. Written in journal form, the book takes you through the lives of people that were affected by a shooting in a B.C. school. My first read by Coupland. The story takes a surprising twist half way through.
EKAnderson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Hey Nostradamus! isn't really about religion. Coupland's characters, in various states of spiritual decomposition, don't have a platform on Christianity. In the wake of a high school tragedy, the four narrators are all determined to move forward. The interwoven progress of the characters spans several decades, the impact of the incident never quite fading. Like most of Coupland's work, this novel leaves both an apocalyptic and a hopeful aftertaste.
claudiabowman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Scary and moving little read.
akritz on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
There are too many holes in the story. And they aren't mysterious, creative holes for the reader to fill in. It's almost as if Coupland couldn't figure out how to get from point A to point B.
brokenangelkisses on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The blurb really didn¿t `sell¿ this book to me. It states that a 17 year old girl, secretly married and pregnant and heavily into God, is shot dead. Sad, obviously, but this barely sounds like a story. The fact that the publishers had prioritised lengthy praise from critics over a decent blurb also left me cold. Here¿s what might have interested me, had someone told me: Coupland took a fictional high school massacre and used it (partly) to explore the impact on the victims. According to interviews he gave regarding the novel, he wanted to focus on this rather than on the motives and stories of the killers themselves. Apparently, he felt that the killers had received plenty of attention and that his interest lay in the victims. Now, that would have made me want to read the story. As it was, I was anticipating a teen love drama, (judging from the limited blurb and image on the cover of two young lovebirds,) and I was ready to be underwhelmed. The novel is separated into four distinct parts with four very different narrators, to which I had surprisingly distinct responses.CherylCheryl is our first narrator. She is 17, secretly married and pregnant. This created my first problem. Why on earth was she secretly married? There did not appear to be any Romeo and Juliet style situation going on; she hadn¿t been pregnant before they got married. It seemed to come down to sex: having undergone a conversion to Christianity in order to sink her claws into fellow teen Jason, Cheryl insists that they marry before `doing the dirty¿. I felt that this was a rather ridiculous plotline, but perhaps my resistance was more due to my lack of contact with genuine religious conviction in my day to day life than a flaw in Coupland¿s storytelling. I imagine that there are areas in America, and indeed elsewhere, where this would seem perfectly feasible.My second issue was even more personal: she¿s dead. Gradually, interspersed with an account of an otherwise largely ordinary day, Cheryl reveals the events on the day of her death. In 40 odd pages she reflects upon her relationships with family, friends and her husband. Fine. Fair enough. But she also hears prayers, other people struggling to come to terms with the massacre. She is in some nebulous place where she is privileged to hear only prayers and curses. Well, this kind of fiction simply isn¿t for me. Cheryl irritated me. Hugely. She was unambitious and manipulative. She accepted death.And yet. On reflection, she was honest and was looking back over her life critically, examining `the big themes¿ ¿ love, faith, grief. It may be that other readers, of a more patient disposition than myself, actually find this section of the novel quite interesting. I don¿t believe in purgatory and I couldn¿t suspend my disbelief, so I felt quite `out of touch¿ in this section.JasonJason¿s narrative is given the most space in the book, running to just over 100 pages. Despite the years that have passed, his opening words refer to the massacre and it quickly becomes apparent why: he has never escaped it. This is a logical and yet sad development; I found it convincing and quite interesting to read about the impact that it had on his life. I quickly felt that his voice was distinctive and that his perspective was more interesting than Cheryl¿s.Jason¿s memories of Cheryl, his parents and the massacre are gradually unravelled and paint quite a dark picture of life. I found the characterisation initially convincing, especially in recounting Jason¿s relationship with his rather difficult father, who is an exceedingly literal minded Christian. Their arguments are at once surreal and spot on: this is how families wind each other up. This felt like a better section of the novel to me because I could engage realistically with the material.However. Gradually, it transpires that he is writing a letter to his nephews, which started to feel distinctly odd as the content became more and more unusual, and not the sort of thing one woul
eleanor_eader on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The best thing about this novel is that it gets progressively more interesting. The themes are enriched with each change of narrator; Coupland layers faith, murder, personal insight and growth into something multifaceted and thought-provoking. Cheryl, a teenage girl, has been cut down by a school shooting, and will never grow past the newly-ascribed role of martyr; Jason, her high-school sweetheart and husband, spends his early twenties not talking to anyone, buried in work or drinking with an assortment of friends and associates, some of whom he has only met during blackouts. We meet, also, his new girlfriend, the wonderful Heather who brings him out of his spiral, only to have her lose him. And finally, Reg; Jason¿s devout and embittered father who has changed from the religion-defining monster that Jason knew growing up to a man capable of introspection, who refuses to accept that this change has arrived too late to benefit his son. No, I¿ve changed my mind ¿ the best thing about this novel is the unexpectedness of each event. Hey, Nostradamus! might be written in the wake of a school shooting, but it doesn¿t suggest that life ¿ or death ¿ stop there. Things keep happening, unexpected things, some connected to Cheryl, some entirely random. I love Coupland¿s writing ¿ he¿s hardly there at all, he hands it all over to his characters ¿ but I love, more, the way he portrays life, change, growth as unstoppable. Also, he made my jaw drop at one point, for the most entirely unexpected murder I¿ve ever read. Most authors barely manage a blink, I¿m so inured to fictional death. Coupland got in under the radar and impressed the hell out of me.
phoebesmum on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Relies heavily on (Christian) faith to get its point across; hard to find any sympathy for the scary religious freaks that infest the story, but the lost souls of the bereaved husband and of the woman who loves him are heartbreaking.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Puts food in her pssy qalking over to the gorrilla
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Walks around
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Aprentice den, nursery, and elder den.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Suree imma die a slow n pqinful death right now so *walks in room locking myself in n cuts
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