Book of the Week:

Held up in an emptied passenger airplane, Tender Branson recounts his life story into the flights “black box” as he plummets towards the inviting Australian outback.

This is how Chuck Palahniuk’s “Survivor” opens up. The story he reveals takes us through twists and turns only Palahniuk could deliver.

From growing up in a strict religious colony to being turned into a drug crazed mass media messiah, the tales of his childhood are quick and horrific, leading him into a life of servitude as a labor missionary. He recalls how to clean just about anything; semen stains in wedding dresses, blood splattered walls, as well as how to cook and devour all of your most exquisite meals. Not to mention, he also conducts a self-help hotline from his apartment.

During his time as a laborer, he learns through an assigned caseworker that he has become the sole survivor of his religious affiliation after the rest of the “Creedish Cult” performs what they call the “Deliverance,” a mass suicide pact. His caseworker informs him that through the few years following the “Deliverance,” any other survivors have been murdered in ways to make it look like suicide, hence her being assigned to him.

Branson, not taking the news too seriously, continues to live his life as his daily planner dictates. He continues to go to the local cemetery to find flowers for his clients’ yard. One day while rummaging through bouquets he meets a wonderfully ordinary woman, Fertility Hollis, who possesses the very unordinary gift of visions- dreams of the future which always come true.

Branson learns that she is the sister of one of his callers who recently had killed himself, but despite the extreme guilt he feels, he never tells her. The two begin two very strange relationships, one where they meet in the cemetery to dance, and the other where Hollis calls Branson’s hotline just to talk dirty to him.

Soon the number of Creedish survivors drops to just Branson, and with the unexpected death of his caseworker, the media begins to zero in on him. Not to blame him for all the murders, but to praise and exploit him as being a modern day messiah.

They begin changing his appearance through plastic surgery and drug abuse. They write him a new history and send him on television to proclaim it. Soon they ask him to perform miracles, in the form of predictions. So Branson turns to Hollis. He is sent on book tours and even given his own television spot. And before you know it, it all comes crashing down when his brother resurfaces as the mass murderer that everyone thinks is Branson.

Palahniuk does it again with this book, a twisted look at society’s worst fears and desires that just had to be written backwards.