Verdict: Weird, funny, horrifying; DELIVERING VIRTUE is a book neither for the faint of heart nor for those who like their Westerns normal.
Didier Rain is a hired gun, paid a handsome fee to embark on his strangest quest yet. A small breakaway Mormon sect needs him to deliver a child bride to their prophet. Rain, though not the most morally upright of citizens, is disturbed by the nature of this mission; but he takes the gig anyway. From there, it just gets weirder. The child bride ages rapidly, starting as a baby and becoming a young woman by the end of the book. Rain receives prophetic visions, and is kidnapped by a band of fur trappers who force him to wear a dress and engage in strange sexual rituals involving candles. Along the way, we meet a number of strange and indelible characters, like Turtle Dove, a widowed Blackfoot healer; Desire, a hooker with at least a heart of silver; Boob Tuttles, her oblivious husband; and the child bride herself, Virtue.
Brian Kindall’s DELIVERING VIRTUE is a Western as re-imagined by Haruki Murakami. Full of strange magical realism and plot lines with inscrutably obscure implications, this is a novel with a disturbing and vivid imagination. Whether it’s delving into a kind of shamanistic quasi-Christian esotericism, or portraying incest or bestiality in excruciating detail, it’s never clear where DELIVERING VIRTUE is headed next.
One of the novel’s biggest strengths is its narrator. Even when he is often amoral and dastardly, Didier Rain is usually quite likeable and funny. And for a mercenary, also quite verbose, even when just talking human bodily functions: “…she was better equipped with the proper mammarian apparatus to fulfill such lactitory employment.” “But I was being cursed with an abnormally pungent and magniloquent case of intestinal turgidity, and I did not dare get close to my affianced, as I could not bear another of her giggle-ridden spurnings.”
Careening between comedy and tragedy, fantasy and realism, DELIVERING VIRTUE is never a clear or easily digestible novel. Like a Dali painting or a David Lynch film, it simply invites you to bask in its beautiful weirdness. To those who value things like closure and coherent storytelling, this may not be the book for you. But for those who want to see just how weird the Weird West can get, this is one very compelling answer.
Weird, funny, horrifying; this is a book neither for the faint of heart nor for those who like their Westerns normal.
~Charles Baker for IndieReader