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My theory. (Spoilers)

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I just finished my third read-through of Lullaby, and there's a lot bouncing around in my head.

The first time I read it, last year or whenever, the story seemed incredibly vast, the symbolism almost too gigantic for me to wrap my head around. It blew my mind. I loved it. The second time I read it, not long after, I had full knowledge of how the story would end, where the plot would go, and it still held up to my scrutiny. I proclaimed it one of my favorite Palahniuk books.

And now, this third time, I've since read all of Chuck's craft essays on fiction writing and had some swings at molding my own stories and stripping down my own writing style, and I wanted to really pick Lullaby apart, the same way I would read back over whatever I've been working on. I wanted to look for how Streator establishes authority, how the scenes carry the themes and really shape each character and their actions. All of the buried guns. How every little piece backs up and lends itself to all of the other little pieces.

And I wanted to pick up anything I might have missed. And I think I just might've.

In Chapter 28, Helen and Carl are in the race car guy's house, a man who's lost his baby to the culling song. Carl's pretending to be some kind of minister while Helen "goes to the bathroom" and looks for the Poems book. Carl pretends Helen's planner book (the grimoire) is a Bible, and while he's pretending to look for a passage in it that will fix the man's life, he notices the early pages are faded, and and before that someone's started tearing out the oldest ones. Pages are missing.

Now, we find out that every page of the grimoire holds hidden spells behind the writing. So it stands to reason that the missing pages would be even more spells!

I wondered, who could it be? Who's known and been lying and using magic? I figured maybe it was Helen, and that she's secretly been using magic the whole time to make houses "haunted", since she doesn't believe in ghosts (Chapter 21). Heck she says, "There are no ghosts." And that little girl calls her a witch early in the story. But would Helen be able to resist ripping out all of the other spells and translating them if she knew she had the grimoire the whole time? Why use it as a planner?

And then I remembered Mona. Mulberry. The wiccan assistant who goes to check out houses for Helen and tell her if there's any activity in them. Maybe Mona's recognized the book for what it was waaay before she figured it out at the carnival. Maybe she's been using magic the whole time, to make the houses "haunted". It couldn't be Oyster, if he knew, he would run off with the book and put an end to civilization. Can it really just be that they needed Helen to translate it?

And lo and behold in Chapter 43, Oyster in Helen's body tells Carl that Mona's known about the book for weeks. The first time she saw the planner, she knew. But weeks is not long enough for Mona to have been haunting the houses Helen sells. If Helen doesn't believe in ghosts, then how is she selling haunted houses?

Plus, after Carl grabs Mona and Helen takes the grimoire, and they get back in the car, Mona's all pissed and she plucks some hairs from both Carl and Helen's head. She does this little ritual-type thing, and she writes something in a spiral, which is one way she'd mentioned you could write a spell. So what spell did she write? Did she cast a love spell on them? She and Oyster were most likely trying to turn them against eachother, so did she cast the spell on Carl so that she could later tell him he was being glamoured by Helen and make him not trust her? Or was it Helen all along, and she DID cast a love spell on Carl despite her proclamation at the end that "they don't have a love spell"? But maybe she didn't know there was a love spell because Mona had been tearing out pages?

I'm inclined to think Mona's behind it, because if you pay attention towards the end, it seems like at one point Helen becomes un-in love with Carl. And then later, Carl seems to no longer love Helen. And underneath it all, Oyster is a liar, Mona says so. So who knows what's true?

Any thoughts anyone might have would be most welcome. My mind is reeling, and I can't help but think there's something there, underneath the surface of what is already a complex story. At any rate, incredible book. My favorite by Chuck.