Alison Donnelly has suffered for love. Still stuck in the small Northern Irish town where she was born, working for her father’s real estate agency, she hopes to pick up the pieces and get her life back together. Her sister Liz, a fiercely independent college professor who lives in New York City, is about to return to Ulster for Alison’s second wedding, before heading to an island off the coast of Papua New Guinea to make a TV show about the world’s newest religion.
Both sisters’ lives are about to be shaken apart. Alison wakes up the day after her wedding to find that her new husband has a past neither of them can escape. In a rainforest on the other side of the planet, Liz finds herself becoming increasingly entangled in the eerie, charged world of Belef, the subject of her show, a charismatic middle-aged woman who is the leader of a cargo cult.
As Modern Gods ingeniously interweaves the stories of Liz and Alison, it becomes clear that both sisters must learn how to negotiate with the past, with the sins of fanaticism, and decide just what the living owe to the dead. Laird’s brave, innovative novel charts the intimacies and disappointments of a family trying to hold itself together, and the repercussions of history and faith.
Reviews of Modern Gods
‘Modern Gods is an exceptional work of literature. It also fulfils its duty as a corrective to our collective idiocy by reminding us what we’ve forgotten: at bedrock, it says, we’re all just confused, lonely, yearning, terrified of death and desperate for love.’ Irish Times
‘Brilliantly observed, tense, dark and funny’ Graham Norton
‘Laird dazzles ear and eye with his kinetic prose … With a mere flick of description, Laird summons vast stretches of politics and history.’ Jennifer Egan, New York Times
‘Finely etched, impeccably structured, Modern Gods has the enduring echoes of a classic.’ BBC
‘Modern Gods has realer-than-real characters, unexpected turns of plot into unknown corners of the world, and language that finds its way through the darkest moments and states of mind to shine its clear bright light, revelatory and unforgiving.’ Michael Chabon
‘Ferociously intelligent, radically contemporary, deeply affecting, stunning.’ Matthew Thomas
‘Nick Laird takes two experiences poles apart and unites them in gorgeous language, with the same fierce tenderness as he employs in his poetry. It’s about families, tribes, peoples – and if you’re a member of any of those you’ll find a home both strange and familiar in this story.’ Dave Eggers
‘Laird’s overarching concern, for individuals trapped by politics and religion, carries Modern Gods along on a tide of vigorous compassion.’ The Times
‘With Modern Gods, Laird marks himself out as a first-rate novelist.’ Alex Preston, Financial Times
‘Laird has given us a richly textured geography of the human need to believe in something, and of the stories, religious and secular, we live by.’ Guardian
‘Ambitious and unnervingly funny.’ Mail on Sunday
‘His most assured work of fiction to date…Modern Gods shows him to be as equally a gifted writer of fiction as he is of poetry…hugely enjoyable.’ Sunday Times