As with most of Chuck’s books, there are several story threads going on, but the best revolves around a journalist investigating a sudden outbreak of infant deaths. At each nursery where an infant has passed, there are similarities that seem quite innocent at first. In particular, the presence of a book of children’s rhymes and songs.
Unfortunately, one of the songs happens to be an African culling song, a song that is sung to dying warriors to help ease their passage into the next world. In other words, it helps them die. In the case of the kids that are hearing the song, well…
The story really gets going once Streator, the journalist, gets the song stuck in his head. He keeps forgetting himself and singing it, and people around him pay the price. Then things escalate when even thinking the song starts to do the trick, particularly as he starts to realize just how many people annoy him or enrage him in the world.
And because this is a Chuck Palahniuk novel, there is a lot of other stuff going on. We get commentaries on noise pollution, sitcom laugh tracks, grieving husbands, corporate blackmail, some morbid romance, the drudgery of the hired hitman, and much more, including one of the more disturbing uses for gemstones that I have ever read.
If this doesn’t intrigue you, consider that a clue and don’t read it. Palahniuk has legions of fans that adore him, but people who can’t stand him really don’t like his work. After reading this review, I hope you have some idea of which camp you’re in.
As for me, I still read Lullaby every couple of years, and every time someone annoys me, I recall snatches of the song. But it never works.
And if you’re a fan of the man, you might enjoy this post about the letter I got from Mr. Palahniuk.