The Epiphany Machine: Book summary and reviews of The Epiphany Machine by David Burr Gerrard

The Epiphany Machine

by David Burr Gerrard

The Epiphany Machine by David Burr Gerrard X
The Epiphany Machine by David Burr Gerrard
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Book Summary

Everyone else knows the truth about you, now you can know it, too.

That's the slogan. The product: a junky contraption that tattoos personalized revelations on its users' forearms. It's an old con, playing on the fear that we are obvious to everybody except ourselves. This particular one's been circulating New York since the 1960s. The ad works. And, oddly enough, so might the device...

A small stream of city dwellers buy into this cult of the epiphany machine, including Venter Lowood's parents. This stigma follows them when they move upstate, where Venter can't avoid the whispers of teachers and neighbors any more than he can ignore the machine's accurate predictions: his mother's abandonment and his father's disinterest. So when Venter's grandmother finally asks him to confront the epiphany machine and inoculate himself against his family's mistakes, he's only too happy to oblige.

Like his parents before him, Venter is quick to fall under the spell of the device's sweat-stained, profane, and surprisingly charming operator, Adam Lyons. But unlike them, Venter gets close enough to Adam to learn a dark secret. There's an undeniable pattern between specific epiphanies and violent crimes. And Adam won't jeopardize the privacy of his customers by alerting the police.

It may be a hoax, but that doesn't mean what Adam is selling isn't also spot-on. And in this sprawling, snarling tragicomedy about accountability in contemporary America, the greater danger is that Adam Lyon's apparatus may just be right about us all.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. This is a wildly charming, morally serious bildungsroman with the rare potential to change the way readers think." - Publishers Weekly

"An affecting exploration of fate and the clash of our private and public selves… ambitiously wrestling in the muck of big questions. A pleasurably speculative yarn about family and ethics." - Kirkus

"A rampaging inquiry into questions of self, society, and justice, Gerrard's novel is boldly imagined, droll, and righteously incisive." - Booklist

"Simply tremendous. An extraordinary book, full of wisdom and surprise, ingenious and original." - Karen Joy Fowler, author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

"A deeply compelling read by a terrific young writer." - Ben Marcus, author of The Flame Alphabet

"If I'd used the Epiphany Machine before reading this book, I would've received the following prophecy: ABOUT TO FALL IN LOVE. With equal parts satire, mystery, and vaudevillian comedy, David Burr Gerrard has written a masterpiece. Go ahead, open it, get your tattoo." - Alexander Weinstein, author of Children of the New World

"David Burr Gerrard's The Epiphany Machine is itself a magnificent invention, as deeply uncanny as it is beautifully written. Gerrard joins his own wry humor with the dark soul of Kafka and the joyful essence of Melville. The result is hysterical, delightful, and determined - and truly, an epiphany of a modern novel." - Kristopher Jansma, author of The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards and Why We Came to the City

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Author Information

David Burr Gerrard

David Burr Gerrard received an MFA in fiction writing from Columbia University. His first novel, Short Century, was published by Rare Bird Books, and his work has appeared in The Awl, The LA Review of Books, BOMB, Guernica, and other publications. He teaches fiction writing at Manhattanville College, the 92nd Street Y, and the Sackett Street Writers' Workshop.

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