Can the souls of the departed live on in their transplanted organs? Read Richard Barager’s edgy novel, The Atheist and the Parrotfish, and find out!
Dr. Cullen Brodie receives word that a donor is available for one of his patients, Ennis, a sixty-three-year-old cross-dresser desperately in need of a new heart and kidney. Cullen learns that the donor happens to be his boss’s daughter-in-law, Carla, who never recovered from a car accident.
At his three-month follow-up appointment, Ennis declares that his donor came to him in a dream and that Carla’s organs have exerted influences on him “beyond their intended bodily functions,” such as unexplained sweating and flushing, chattiness, a love for jazz as well as beets.
The possibility of Carla’s transmigration (passage of a soul into a living body) sends chills through Cullen. How can this be?
The uncanny “spiritual” experiences in Ennis’s life spark religious questions within Cullen’s mind, particularly ones directed toward an unresolved conflict embedded in his past.
Ennis has some other issues, as well. But his (or more correctly, Carla’s) take shape in an obsession with locating the donor’s family. When he does, however, that familial connection stirs up personality clashes between Ennis and Elaine (Ennis’s feminine side), and Carla.
Amid the turmoil, Ennis is aware of Carla desperately trying to relay a critical life-changing message to her family, but he needs Cullen’s help to deliver it. The real trick will be whether or not Ennis can convince Cullen before Carla destroys Ennis altogether.
Coming-out-of-the-closet late produces in Ennis a multitude of inner struggles and unsettling childhood memories. In the midst of his personal chaos, Ennis has amazing moments of clarity (with the help of Carla) to see through people and their faults.
Cullen, on the other hand, finds himself between a rock and a hard place dealing with Ennis’s ongoing commentary about Carla. “When all else fails, listen to your patient” is Cullen’s default motto to identify patients’ diagnoses. With Ennis however, Cullen finds this motto difficult to live by, especially since it is both extremely unusual and disconcerting for Cullen to even consider the possibility of life after death – or the very existence of a soul. As a result, Cullen’s attempt to apply reason to an unreasonable situation leads him to revisit conflicts from his own past.
Contradiction is a key narrative theme in this work. One story coiled within another builds while Barager slowly and masterfully weaves the two seemingly opposing accounts together. Chapters alternate between characters dealing with past and present situations, and scenes that include shocking, and at times, heart-stopping endings.
Pages are replete with rich descriptions of religious and ethical conundrums, philosophy, and theological ambiguities. The latter, readers may not recognize until much later in the story.
Rising author Richard Barager pulls from his daytime job experience as a nephrologist to create a gripping human-interest account packed with complex characters and spiritual paradoxes.
“A fascinating story, The Atheist and the Parrotfish, which merges age-old spiritual questions with the latest in modern medicine, is replete with complex characters and riveting pages that brim with religious and ethical conundrums, making Richard Barager’s novel a thought-provoking top-of-the-line read.” – Chanticleer Reviews