I’m not sure how I’d have received being told at the age of fourteen that I was a prophet but The Prophet Joan, our eponymous heroine handles it admirably and her quirky and original story is told with wit and humour by Jay Heinrichs.
From the dramatic start where Joan relates “the Incident”, this book leads you into the world of Joan Mudgett (or as she prefers to be called, Jonah in honour of her father) and her transformation from regular teenage girl to chosen one as God’s messenger.
Told in the first person, Joan is a very entertaining narrator and is a likeable character who is trying to navigate a situation of sudden loss and abandonment at a difficult age. If that wasn’t enough, she is also being visited by otherworldly phenomena which are imbuing her previously simple existence with a lot of importance and a great deal of publicity. As with the prophet Jonah from the Bible, Joan is recalcitrant at first and merely wants to escape her predicament but when she realises that it may lead to her finding the truth behind “the Incident”, she becomes more accepting of her given role.
Enter the roller coaster ride that is the world of the prophet at a time in the world, set in the present day, when everything seems to have gone haywire and Joan’s words are spun and contorted into meaning a lot more than she intended when uttering them.
Alongside the unwanted publicity, Joan has all of the foibles of being a high school student to deal with and I like the way that Jay Heinrichs incorporated teenage problems into Joan’s story, like the way she has to deal with attitudes that may be less than favourable towards her and the rumours that surround her. He has created a strong female character in Joan, one who can stand up for herself; who feels afraid but faces the fear; who is intelligent with a maturity beyond her years. Her sarcasm and dry wit made me laugh out loud at times.
Moby Dick features strongly in this book, the obvious parallels with Jonah and whales prevalent throughout and I really enjoyed this aspect. Heinrich’s use of the book as a comfort to Joan, a love shared with her father is expertly interwoven.
Jay Heinrichs’ book is an unorthodox tale with a serious message that is really, really enjoyable.
This book review was first published on Reedsy Discovery where I was privileged to read it as an ARC.