Sunday, July 09, 2006
Guess the Plot
Sister of Mercy
1. Hard-boiled assassin Vera Masters is given the assignment of her career, only to discover her estranged brother Hal is the target. Will she take the job, or work to save the sibling Dad always liked best?
2. Malicia plots to destroy her twin sister, Mercy, who always gets the best grades, the cutest boys, and the biggest slice of pie.
3. A Canadian nurse vacationing with her husband in Brazil, meets José, a career criminal who committed his first murder at the age of six. They have a profound effect on each other, and have an affair.
4. When Heather's sister joined a convent seven years ago, Heather joined a whorehouse. Now the two of them have joined forces, running a strip club to raise money for orphans in Yugoslavia.
5. When serial killer "Angel of Death" terrorizes a city, only one superhero has a prayer of stopping the carnage: Sister of Mercy, with her bullet-proof wimple and her Rosary of Doom.
6. "Mercy," a jaded transvestite cabaret singer, meets his estranged sister, who persuades him (her) to join her at the convent. But will she keep her brother's secret when the favor of Mother Superior is at stake?
Dear Evil Editor,
Sister of Mercy is a story of jealousy and infidelity in Rio de Janeiro in the aftermath of 9/11. During Christmas of 2001, a Montreal couple go on vacation in Rio with their two children. At Copacabana beach, Chantal sees her husband, Robert, flirting with a young woman at a distance and does a slow burn. A few days later, she meets a taxi driver, José, at the same beach. After her rendezvous with José at his place, [She goes 5000 miles for a vacation with her husband and two children, and then slips away from them for a rendezvous with a cab driver?] Chantal (who’s a nurse) helps the taxi driver's mother, a midwife, deliver a baby in one of the favelas of Rio. The experience changes her profoundly as she sees how people live in one of Rio’s shantytowns.
Though Carnival in Rio isn't until the day before Ash Wednesday, the people of Rio are already preparing for it around Christmas. The narration is in first-person but shifts between the three major characters: Chantal, José and Robert. [How did that sentence get in here?] Though Chantal, age 34, and her husband, Robert, 47, are French-Canadian, Chantal communicates with the taxi driver, José, age about 23, in English. [Is that important? Are their ages important? Is anything in this paragraph important?] As a participant in the war between police and Rio's street children in 1987, José is suffering from post-traumatic stress, much like Vietnam war veterans. He first committed murder at the age of six, [She goes 5000 miles for a vacation with her husband and two children, and then slips away from them for a rendezvous with a murderer?] when he shot a grocer in a robbery. [Gimme all the candy, or I'll let you have it.][Important or not, the sentences in that paragraph have little or no connection to each other.]
The story is mostly a series of flashbacks. For instance, Chantal and Robert both relate meeting each other in his composition class at an unamed Montreal university in the autumn of 1988 while José relates details of his childhood in a favela. A turning point for José is when he catches his best friend and his girlfriend in bed together. He gives up a life of crime as a malandro and drives his father's taxi instead. His girlfriend, Rita, hits him over the head with a frying pan and knocks him out, but Rita and Gilberto give José another opportunity to kill them when they appear to try and make peace about six months later. They have become born-again Christians and want to get married, but they ask José for his blessing; he gives it to them and turns away from murder. [You just said he gave up a life of crime when he caught them in bed six months ago. Apparently that didn't include turning away from murder?] [Chapter 4. My name is José. It all started in a small shanty in Rio. When I was four, Mama said I was old enough to be on my own. I got a job at La Tiendita but when I was six, I shot my supervisor for looking at me the wrong way, and they fired me. I blew the place up a week later. By the time I was nine I was known as the Cocaine Kingpin of Ipanema. That was the year I caught Rita in bed with Gilberto. I was gonna kill her, but I decided the time was right to go straight. And it all would have been perfect, if she hadn't come into my life. The most beautiful woman in three hemispheres. Chantal. Too much woman for that wuss she was married to. I had to have her. But one week with her wasn't enough, and she wouldn't stay behind when her family left. So I drove my cab all the way to Canada to find her. We were meant to be, Chantal and José.]
This novel is also about how technology has affected our lives. José ends up living in Toronto with another Canadian woman, Donna, who sponsors him as a permanent resident. However, José has a short-term affair with Chantal in Montreal before she breaks it off, communicating through text messages on their cell phones. ("Hiroshima, mon amour" means that the rendezvous is off; the longitude and latitude of Montreal means that it's on.) [That's how technology has affected our lives? It allows you to text-message your lover in code to set up a secret rendezvous?] [The point of text-messaging in "code" is that other people might read the text message, right? So which would make the reader more suspicious that something's going on: a message that reads Meeting canceled, or a message that reads, Hiroshima, mon amour?]
Why mention that the story takes place in the aftermath of 9/11, if you're never going to mention how 9/11 is relevant?
Why mention that people are preparing for Carnival if you're never going to mention how Carnival is relevant? The query should have the most important stuff.
What's the novel about? It seems, insofar as José ends up in Canada, that it's a novel about him and Chantal. Or is it about Chantal's changes as a result of her experience in Rio? Either way, if it's "mostly" a series of flashbacks, and the flashbacks all go back to a time before Chantal went to Rio, then I don't see how it can hold together as a novel. There wouldn't be enough interaction between the main characters. Plus I don't buy Chantal getting involved with José. As for the query, I recommend dropping the last three paragraphs and concentrating on what's important--which would not include the frying pan incident or the text messaging codes.