Epiphany Jones by Michael Grothaus (Orenda Books)

I’m having a wonderful time reading the new offerings by Orenda Books as they come to me at the moment. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Orenda Books are on fire! I’ve yet to read a book by this publisher that I haven’t enjoyed from cover to cover. I’ve not only enjoyed, but been blown away by the uniquely complex plots and beautifully written narratives that are unlike any others that I’ve read. My latest Orenda read was Epiphany Jones by Michael Grothaus.

Epiphany Jones is a dark tale whose main protagonist, Jerry, has had a traumatic life to date, which has left him psychologically damaged. He hallucinates on a regular basis and his sex life is based on fantasy connections with women from his past. As he just about manages to hold his job down at an art gallery as a colour correction operative, he finds himself accused of stealing a famous Van Gogh painting and being followed by the strange Epiphany Jones.

As a completely unreliable narrator, the reader is left as bewildered as Jerry, as he openly admits he has problems and his judgement can’t be trusted. Grothaus takes the reader in different directions so you are not really sure what is going on from one chapter to the next, much like Jerry. He is fully aware of his hallucinations but isn’t always sure what is real and what isn’t which provides the reader with an extra sense of suspense throughout. Grothaus has struck a great balance between his main protagonist as equally funny and pitiful as he is thrust into a bizarre turn of events that he has no control of. Epiphany calls the shots, yet for some unknown reason, needs Jerry for her own end game.

Grothaus tackles mental health issues with a no-nonsense approach and illuminates how these issues can be used to take advantage of vulnerable people. He also shows the use of religion as a mask for unsavoury individuals and in Epiphany, he shows the depth of her belief in God, so much so that she thinks God talks to her and tells her what to do.

Epiphany Jones doesn’t stop there. Grothaus also highlights the horrific effects of sex-trafficking across the globe and shows the seediness behind the glitz and glamour of Hollywood and gives the reader an alternative view of the film industry. The reader is shown a striking juxtaposition of the two big money industries which further adds a sense of hopelessness to Epiphany and Jerry’s plight.

From start to finish, Epiphany Jones is a moving, gripping, fast paced novel. There are amusing moments in parts but this is also such a poignant read at times, as Grothaus tackles these difficult subjects. This novel is full of conflicting emotions and disturbing parallels which gives the reader plenty to think about long after the novel has been finished. It is also a thoroughly enjoyable read, with a good balance of humour, suspense and poignancy that encompasses what Orenda Books is so brilliant at recognising in its choice of publications: that sense that this has been a reading experience that you will never forget, and that this book will remain with the reader as one to talk about for years to come. That’s certainly my experience with every Orenda book that I’ve read so far, and when someone asks me what book I’d recommend, you can guarantee that an Orenda book will be my first suggestion. Epiphany Jones, anyone?