Cover image for Shooting the heart
Shooting the heart
Cody, Paul, 1953-
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Publication Information:
New York : Viking, [2004]

Physical Description:
254 pages ; 22 cm
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With his previous novels- So Far Gone , Eyes Like Mine , and The Stolen Child -Paul Cody has established himself as a writer with uncommon gifts. Brian Hall (author of I Should Be Extremely Happy in Your Company ) has said of his new novel: "I can think of no one else who writes with Cody's combination of savagery and tenderness, or who displays such a translucent style to such reverberant effect." Cody here journeys into the mind of Earl Madden, a former Boston schoolteacher who has been committed to a state mental hospital. Manic depressive and heavily sedated, Earl is haunted by the disturbing question: Did I kill my wife? Could I have done such a thing?As the novel progresses, Earl recalls with intermittent clarity his unstable childhood, his brief courtship and marriage, and his obsession with serial killers. He broods too about American history and literature, and about his lost parents and brother, but especially about his missing wife. Luminously written and intensely frightening, Shooting the Heart is an unforgettable novel that will grip the reader in suspense until its final revelation.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

In an understated tour de force, Cody takes the reader into the mind of a mentally ill man who may have murdered his wife. Once a teacher of history and literature at a private high school in Boston who inspired boys with Whitman, Earl Madden--obsessed with serial killers, whose true accounts are threaded throughout the book--is in a mental hospital, being asked about his wife, Joan. Did she leave him--as Earl himself would have done--or did she die at his hands? Earl's first-person account goes back to his childhood, during which he saw his father institutionalized and was the victim of a neighbor woman's erratic anger, on to his hearing voices that demean him and practicing self-mutilation. Cody, a former addict and mental patient, knows whereof he writes, and there are some echoes of his three earlier well-received novels here. But it is the consummate skill that he brings to his experience that makes this account of mental illness, with its lucid prose, as astonishing as it is frightening. --Michele Leber Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Paul Cody's dark and disjointed third novel tells the story of a man so obsessed with serial killers that he may have crossed the line and become a killer himself. Earl Madden, a teacher at a private high school, is fixated on a number of gruesome murderers (John Wayne Gacy, the Boston Strangler, among others), to the extent that his interest finally lands him in a mental institution. Once he is there, doctors try to figure out whether or not Earl killed his missing wife, Joan, a fellow teacher. The novel tells Madden's story in vignettes and flashbacks, alternating with the histories of notorious murderers. The narrator's passion for serial killers is never adequately explained; even he doesn't know why he's fascinated by them (halfway through the novel he finally asks himself, "What is it that draws me so to these people?"; unfortunately, there's no clear answer). The scenes in the mental institution sound lifted from One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest ("She could have security here in five minutes, big fat bastards with sticks and radios, and there are shots, injections of one thing and another"), while ambitious attempts at insight into the criminal mind fall flat (about Gacy, Cody writes: "He was God almost. Master of Death, King of Life, Servant to None. And they encamped against it and fought against it. In the Bible. But he was unto him. A Master. None but unto Him. John. So long, John"). Evil comes to seem merely tedious in this numbing portrait of madness and (maybe) murder. (May 10) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved