I'm not sure what I really expected out of this book, but I got a really good read, that much is certain. Many people know Chuck Palahniuk as the author of "Fight Club" and "Choke" and expect some really interesting social commentary and this book provides more views of society through the cynical eyes of Chuck Palahniuk. Keep in mind though, he has also written some good horror like "Lullaby" and "Haunted." When he does write the horror it also contains some social commentary/satire, and this book contains all that with what starts out as in interesting view of society through the eyes of a failed artist to a horror novel of a woman held hostage by a community.
Before I run through the gist of the book, I would like to point out that this is book is told through the view of a woman, this is rare for a Palahniuk novel (in fact, it is the only one I've read so far) and he pulls it off well. Another aspect is that this book is not the typical non-linear storytelling Palahniuk uses, but there are some aspects of the non-linear through some flashback sequences.
The book begins as a "coma diary," in which Misty Wilmot is keeping because her mother-in-law, Grace Wilmot, insists on her keeping because Misty's husband, Peter Wilmot, is in a coma after a failed suicide attempt. As the book progresses more is learned about the community of Waytensea Island where Peter calls home and he and Misty moved back to after Peter's father's death.
Waytensea Island is a tourist based community that has fallen on some hard times. The hard times though, are part of a 4 generation cycle in which every 4th generation a famous artist creates art on the island and draws tourists and the money is back. The catch is that this artist is a reincarnation of the previous artist that brought fame and fortune to the Island. Misty learns all about this from clues left behind by her husband, Peter.
Peter and Misty met at art school when Peter found she was "attracted" to the cheap costume jewelry he would wear and that the paintings by Misty were of landmarks on Waytensea Island, which Misty had never seen. After Peter's father's death they move back to the Island to help his mother. Peter becomes a contractor and remodels peoples homes and Misty becomes a waitress at the Island's hotel/restaurant. Peter however leaves clues in the form of "missing rooms" from the summer tourists homes he's remodeled. Some of the summer homes are missing closets, kitchens, dining rooms. Peter has sealed up the rooms but before sealing up the rooms he paints graffiti on the walls warning Misty, "You will die, when they are done with you."
The people return to their homes and discover the missing rooms, one Angel Delaporte has an interest in graphology (handwriting analysis) has a missing kitchen and upon discovery of the warnings and rantings of Peter he goes with Misty to try to solve the mystery of the warning. It is later discovered that Angel is more than he lets on to be as are many of the characters in this book.
Misty is soon held captive by her mother-in-law, Grace Wilmot, and forced to paint. Misty becomes bed-ridden thanks to the drugs from the island's doctor and is fitted with a catheter and has her eyes taped shut. The paintings then flow out of Misty like automatic writing and after she has completed 100 paintings the full story of the island's dark secret kept by all the families on the island.
In a haunting story of reincarnation, betrayal and greed Chuck Palahniuk has created a very intriguing novel that is very hard to put down. Each chapter ends with something new revealed and a new puzzle to solve.