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Gob's Grief


Gob's Grief

Chris Adrian's novel GOB'S GRIEF is the story of one man's tireless effort to erase the sting of death with his invention, a time machine. Dr. Gob Woodhull's machine would transcend time and bring to life thousands of Civil War dead, including his deceased twin brother, Tomo.

Tomo had sought escape from a strange and politically embattled family --- their surgeon father and suffragette mother kept the family's lifestyle tumultuous. Gob grieves a lingering anguished grief. Regret, unfulfilled adoration for Tomo's memory, and misdirected energy lead him to his invention. At a young age, Gob apprentices himself to a spirit creature, the Urfeist, to learn how to bring back the dead. The machine, an ominous mechanical construction housed in a glass enclosure on the top floor of Gob's large house, becomes his obsession.The author introduces additional characters that interact with Gob to help fulfill the dream. The common denominator they share is the loss of a brother or dear friend in the Civil War.

Walt Whitman (yes, the author of LEAVES OF GRASS) ministers to dying soldiers as a hospital volunteer. He becomes the devoted champion of Hank Smith, a young man whose leg is amputated as a result of his wounds. Whitman is devastated when the patient dies and so becomes a partner in Gob's time machine project. Gob's aunt, Tennie Claflin, is a freethinking woman and righteous supporter of her sister, Victoria Woodhull (yes, the radical feminist). Whitman becomes infatuated with Tennie, leading to further involvement with Gob's family.

Doctor Will Fie is yet another player in the drama that unfolds. He, too, has lost a brother to the War. Gob befriends him and enlarges his circle of assistants. Dr. Fie is unprincipled, harvesting body parts from the morgue where he works. His willing compliance makes him a morbid and unlikable character.

When a progressive young lady becomes an assistant to Victoria Woodhull in her political wanderings, writing political news for her mentor, Gob finds her irresistible. She has lost a brother in battle, giving Gob yet another reason to court Miss Maci Trufalt. She supports his creative efforts, but when the final moment of reckoning with the machine comes, her reaction is curious.

Adrian's literary style is compelling and his words are well crafted. One may question his reconstruction of actual persons' lives and actions. Mrs. Woodhull's words are true to her actual speeches, and Whitman's poetic quotes are real; but the license taken with their thoughts and feelings makes this reader a bit uneasy with their parts in the story line.

Adrian's fantasy is a compelling novel. The reader's anxiety is heightened throughout the story. Even amid doubts and the feeling that the protagonist is a madman, curiosity compels one to read the last word.

Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on March 12, 2002

Gob's Grief
by Chris Adrian

  • Publication Date: March 12, 2002
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage
  • ISBN-10: 0375726241
  • ISBN-13: 9780375726248