Review of: The Object of Worship, Claude Lalumiere (in Objects of Worship, Chizine, Toronto, 2009).
By Derek Newman-Stille
In The Object of Worship, Lalumiere demonstrates his extraordinary powers to question societal norms about sexuality and the nature of ideas of family. His ability to engage with the strange and macabre makes this a powerful story that leaves the reader with fundamental questions about the nature of reality and a dark, brooding feeling that cannot help but facilitate questions of identity.
Lalumiere proposes a world whose population is female-only and lesbian relationships are the norm. This short story is centred around two partners, Rose and Sara, who are engaged in a struggle about the nature of worship and whether to worship their household, living god. The worship of these living gods is the norm, and the normative lives of these women is disrupted when a new neighbour moves into the area who refuses to worship the traditional gods. The result is domestic conflict and divine retribution.
Lalumiere juxtaposes the familiarity of a lesbian relationship with the abnormalcy of worshipping living household gods and impregnation by these gods as the only means of reproduction. By placing lesbian relationships as the normal household, he challenges the idea of the heterosexual relationship as the only possible relationship and allows for the idea of homosexual reproduction. He challenges notions of ‘normal’ families, and although a story about same-sex relationships, the family structures in this story are the least ‘queer’ element. But, in his typical fashion, LaLumiere does not propose an easy reading of homosexual reproduction and complicates this further with the internal relationship conflicts between the two women and the control of a deity figure that is responsible for the impregnation and who shares the bed with both women, suggesting the possibility of a masculine-like (although referred to as ‘it’) figure engaged in this lesbian coupling. Harmony in the family in this world is judged by the god, who forces its vision of harmony over couples by destroying the physical features of their households when it views the harmony of the family to be in jeopardy.
In this world atheism is seen as both a potential disruption to notions of social cohesion, and also difficult in light of the physical reality of the gods. They ARE there, moving around the house and punishing people for not offering them what they desire. They fundamentally question ideas of worship and religiosity by being both physically real and having real effects in the world, but having lesser morals than their human counterparts – they would just as soon feed on tears as they would on familial harmony. Atheism is situated here as fundamentally more moral, but disruptive and harmful to the lives of those who continue to worship these gods.
The Object of Worship is a short story where the reader is cast into a gloomy world of shadowy (im)morality where he or she simultaneously sympathizes with characters while being repulsed by them. It leaves the reader with a feeling of delicious depression and the pondering of the world that comes with it.
The Object of Worship is located in a volume titled Objects of Worship that you can explore at: http://chizinepub.com/books/objects-of-worship.php