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Angels of Destruction: A Novel Paperback – October 13, 2009

4 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Tweaking some thematic elements of his previous novel, The Stolen Child, Donohoe now tells the story of Norah, a nine-year-old who appears on the doorstep of Margaret Quinn, a widow living a solitary existence in a small Pennsylvania town in 1985. Margaret eagerly takes in Norah to make up for the loss of her own daughter, Erica, who disappeared 10 years earlier after running away to join the Angels of Destruction, a West Coast revolutionary group. Margaret passes off Norah as her granddaughter and enrolls her in school, where Norah becomes friendly with a boy who's been abandoned by his father. Complications ensue when Margaret's sister arrives and has to be convinced that Norah is Erica's daughter. Sandwiched between the story of Margaret and Norah's unusual relationship is the flashback narrative of teenage Erica's road adventures with her boyfriend on their way to join the Angels of Destruction. Norah's unexplained origins form the enigmatic core of this story, and though she comes across as more of a novelistic conceit than a flesh and blood character, the novel movingly illustrates the quest for connection hardwired into every human heart. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Roughcut edition.



“Norah’s unexplained origins form the enigmatic core of this story . . . the novel movingly illustrates the quest for connection hardwired into every human heart.”
Publishers Weekly

“[A] strange and finely written novel. Donohue has a talent for using small details to draw his characters, and the result is a dark and unsettling story that takes hold of the reader.”
Library Journal

“Fused with spectral imagery and magnetic characters, Donohue’s ethereal foray into the unexpected consequences of love, impenetrable depths of loss, and infinite possibilities of faith is a chilling yet affirmative experience.”

“[A] beguiling tale of those who love well, but not wisely, unspooling like a poem embroidered on the heart — ornate, painful and true. . . . While some readers might liken Donohue’s penchant for mystical realism to that of novelist Alice Hoffman, any sweeping comparisons shortchange both writers, whose immense gifts bear separate and distinct literary imprimaturs. Still, he shares Hoffman’s uncanny ear for capturing the libretto of childhood . . .”

Angels of Destruction is replete with ghostly presences, harbingers of doom, angels good and bad. Surveys indicate that more than half of us believe in angels, so this otherworldly novel should find a ready audience.”
Boston Globe

“Donohue never quite reveals the mystery at the heart of Norah's sudden appearance, and that makes Angels of Destruction all the more satisfying and, yes, believable. Literary and historical clues are scattered throughout: references to the atomic bomb; a spectral man in fedora and camel-hair coat who pursues Norah and haunts Margaret; and an oblique nod to the Liber Juratus, a 14th-century manuscript containing a roll call of angels. The talisman that both Norah and Una pass on to those they love is a child's teacup with a chip in it, which invokes Auden's great poem As I Walked Out One Evening: ‘The crack in the tea-cup opens/A lane to the land of the dead.’
Angels of Destruction doesn't shrink from the tragedies and inevitable separations that dog us. The book's coda is beautiful and wrenching, yet still leaves its protagonists and readers open to the possibility that the miraculous, once glimpsed, might recur. ‘Love is not consolation, it is light,’ wrote Simone Weil. In these bleak times, we can thank Donohue for opening a door in a darkened room.”
Washington Post

Fans of the author’s debut novel, The Stolen Child, will enjoy the same balancing act between reality and fantasy. . . . Donohue marries some fantastical themes with an unadorned style of writing that should appeal to realists and fantasy fans alike.”
Chicago Sun-Times

“With ‘Angels,’ Donohue delivers a magical tale of love and redemption that is as wonderfully written as it is captivating. . . . Donohue is delightfully descriptive in his writing. His word choices are carefully considered . . . and his pacing rivets you to page after page. . . . ‘Angels’ earns its wings.”
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Angels of Destruction is charming, suspenseful, and even touching.”
New York Daily News

Praise for The Stolen Child

“A captivating tale . . . poignant and beautifully told.”
USA Today

“A wonderful, fantasy-laden debut . . . so spare and unsentimental that it’s impossible not to be moved.”

“Utterly absorbing . . . a luminous and thrilling novel about our humanity.”
Washington Post

“The book’s emotional impact is as fierce as the imagination behind it. The result is magical.”

“An ingenious, spirited allegory for adolescent angst, aging, the purpose of art.”
Entertainment Weekly

“Unusual and engaging . . . puts flesh to the bones of old fears.”
Miami Sun-Herald

From the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press; 1 edition (October 13, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307450260
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307450265
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,338,259 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Keith Donohue is the author of the novels THE BOY WHO DREW MONSTERS, CENTURIES OF JUNE, ANGELS OF DESTRUCTION, and THE STOLEN CHILD. He has worked in home construction, ran a cigar store, and the box office of a theater. For eight years, he wrote speeches for the chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts and now works at another federal agency in Washington, DC and lives nearby in Maryland.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Roughcut Verified Purchase
This book says much about the human condition, especially about the relationship between parent and child. The author paints so well in words the way we interact only on the surface, and fail to truly communicate our deepest hopes, loves, and fears. At moments, the book is heart-wrenching, not so much for what is said, but for what is unsaid. The characters are drawn so realistically, that when I was finished reading, I wanted to know what the future held for these people. The fantasy aspect to this book leaves much for one to question, but again, is that not part of the human condition?

I recommend this book to anyone that enjoys the fantastic, the painful, the hopeful, and the thoughtful. It grabs you by the heart from page one and does not let go. For those that have read The Stolen Child, I found this book to be superior, especially in terms of character development.
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Format: Roughcut
In this second novel by a talented author, the story flows along so beautifully that the reader does not want to skip one syllable for fear of missing something wonderful. At times sad,yet with hope always underlying every chapter,the story was easy to love. I recommend this to anyone who enjoys something different and likes to be surprised by their books.
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Format: Paperback
When I first received this book to review, I read the synopsis and thought it was going to be about fantasy and magic, but what I got was so much more.

The story begins in 1985. One bitterly cold night, Margaret quinn, a widow, who lives alone and still mourns the loss of her child; a daughter, who ran away a decade earlier with the boy that she loved, opens the door to find Norah, a small bespectacled girl, frozen and shivering with a battered suitcase leaning against her legs. Margaret takes the girl in, but who is she and what is her purpose?

The second part of the book flashes back to 1975 and tells the story of Erica, Margaret's child, and Wiley, a boy who is obsessed with the Angels of Destruction, a group of radicals, and decides to join their revolution. It reveals how love is at times blind and how it can sweep you along with things you have no control over. Part three returns to 1985 and is about forgiveness and hope. The two parts preceding are now entwined and come together in conclusion.

This book is expertly written. There is fantasy and magic, but it's subtle and weaves its way through the story leading the reader to believe, without question. However, for me, the story was more about love and loss, grief and forgiveness. It is haunting and melancholy without sentimentality. The mystery behind Norah, Una and the man in the camel-haired coat is never really revealed, but the hint of angels influences us in who we believe them to be. The true essence of the story does have an ending, which is very moving.

This is not a quick read, but then I wouldn't want it to be. The story demands the pace to be slow to coincide with the sorrowful atmosphere.

I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it.

(I gave this 7/10 on my blog)
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Format: Audio CD
I grabbed this book because I read The Stolen Child and absolutely loved it. I was hoping that Angels of Destruction would be as compelling, but I felt that while the premise was interesting and I enjoyed the characters, the story just didn't grab me.

The novel begins with Margaret Quinn taking in a little girl who just shows up on her doorstep. She calls the girl Norah and they cook up a story about her being Margaret's grandchild. Norah fills the void that Margaret has felt since her daughter ran away many years ago. The relationship between the two is very sweet and Margaret opens her heart to Norah. Their neighbor Sean Fallon soon becomes Norah's best friend and the two are practically inseperable. Sean is also missing somebody, his father, who left their family. The way that Norah comforts Sean as well as Margaret by trying to pull them out of their lonliness is what I would expect a fledgling angel to behave. Soon however, Norah goes a little too far with her claims and "magic" and the people in town become frightened for their children's safety and fearful because Norah is just too different.

The book also tells the journey of Erica, Margaret's daughter, who ran away with her politically radical boyfriend and their adventures and experiences on the road. She encounters many people along the way who warn her that she is on the wrong path, but unfortunately she doesn't listen. Violent actions and unplanned surprises once again change the course of her life.

I did love how the theme of birds is threaded throughout the story, echoing that Norah is an angel. There is never any definitive resolution to this which I don't mind. I like to wonder and ponder about events in a story. Perhaps it reflects what the characters in the book went through.
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Format: Roughcut
Having not read Keith Donohue's The Stolen Child I went on this journey with the author and his characters with a very open mind and heart and I found that I was mesmerized throughout this novel. He slowly weaves the story of lonely Margaret and the waif Norah who mysteriously arrives at her door in the middle of the night. We learn about Erica, Margaret's daughter who had disappeared years earlier to join a radical cult, 'The Angels of Destruction', and we learn about Sean, the young neighbor boy that soon befriends the enchanting Norah. The question that you will ask yourself throughout this book is, 'Who is Norah?' and you will wonder if she in fact has a connection to Erica. You must read this fascinating tale to it's conclusion - it is a page-turner; this was one of those rare books that you just don't want to end because it is difficult to say goodbye to such compelling individuals in this tale of redemption.
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