Review Series: My Radio Radio

Each month I review a new book for ImageUpdate. Here’s the latest.

A Radiant Coming-of-Age
My Radio Radio by Jessie van Eerden

They called themselves The Dunlap Fellowship of All Things in Common. They were idealists who meant to replicate the early church described in Acts, doing away not only with private property but even family ties, so that parents were addressed not as Mama and Daddy but by their first names, because “we’re all family according to Jesus.” But now, at the opening of Jessie van Eerden’s hypnotic novel, My Radio Radio, it’s 1986, and the twenty-two founding families have dwindled to one grim, quiet household with just a handful of people—one of whom is twelve-year-old Naomi Ruth (Omi for short). We meet Omi, the novel’s narrator, on one of the most terrifying mornings of her life: She wakes to discover that she’s bleeding, an old man in a hospital bed has appeared in her house, and her brother has been killed in a car wreck. All this we get through the dreamlike filter of Omi’s voice, which would be wonderfully strange were it not so wonderfully sane. Of her family and their clichéd, fretting prayers, she wryly observes: “They are always asking God might I come out of my shell.” Omi herself speaks no clichés; her thoughts well up from someplace deep and fresh, as if no one ever told her what teenage girls ought to sound like. Yet all we might hope for in a good coming-of-age novel, we do get here—sexual awakening, righteous rebellion, family tension—with satisfying plot surprises at the right moments, climaxing up to the very last page. The novel’s core of secrets means that little can be described without spoilers, and in any case, some scenes are so radiant that they must be read; but suffice to say that Omi is justified when she muses at the end of the book: “If I come back, reincarnated, I want to be a glow-in-the-dark snake in a cave in India… I have no doubt now that if a doctor opens me up for surgery… it’s not blood and bones they’ll find inside, but thousands of terribly bright years.”
—Reviewed by Jen Hinst-White

Purchase your copy here.

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