Hallelujah City

Description from the publisher

What happens to the leader of an end-time cult the day after the world was prophesied to end? What happens to the lives he disrupted?

Disciple Mary Chambers knows why the Cleansing was postponed. She corrupted her beloved Teacher, causing God to rethink His plans. Eager to inform the doubting billions that she is to blame – and that Daniel Hawker is not a fraud – she will ask the Teacher to accompany her to the press encampment outside Hallelujah City. She imagines holding his hand as she confesses her sin to the world.

Her father, Scott, takes a different view of who exactly did the corrupting. Suspecting that Mary is pregnant, he has his own plans for Hawker. He, too, is on his way to the doomsday compound in upper Minnesota.

Living in motel-squalor on the outskirts of Trappers Point, near Hallelujah City, author Adrian C. Hummel is also determined to reach Daniel Hawker. Exhausted from battling his editor, agent, and an army of creditors for nearly two years, Hummel believes an exclusive interview is all he needs to launch him into notoriety, granting him the fortune that has long eluded him.

These stories converge in Hallelujah City. Whether justice, atonement, or a simple second chance, everything seems to be waiting here. Or is it all just out of reach in this uncertain new world? Has time, as Hawker insists, truly run out?

Ultimately, Hallelujah City succeeds on two levels: as a study of desperation in the wake of receding options, and as the complex, often tender story of a father and daughter in need of reconciliation. Reprising the humor and insight that earned acclaim for his first novel October Revolution, author Tom LaMarr takes readers on a deeply rewarding journey that’s both physical and psychological. And what starts as a trip across Middle America becomes a singular spiritual quest, taking on themes as ambitious as grace, redemption, and the essence of love. Readers familiar with LaMarr’s fiction will embrace Hallelujah City as a welcome return, while others will be pleasantly surprised to discover a distinctive new literary voice.


Surprised didn’t begin to cover it. No, surprised is what Scott Chambers would have been if his daughter had phoned him. But this – seeing her standing on the small front stoop, her feet hidden by a frayed duffel bag that indicated she might be staying – this was Columbus sailing off the world’s edge, or Newton watching his apple float, suspended in air.

“Mary.” He waited a few seconds before unlocking the storm-security door, a few more before pushing it open.

“This is it,” she said, looking past him. “Everything we’ve waited for.”

“Right,” he said. “End of the world.” He moved toward her, stopping close enough to reach out and touch her shoulder, something he nearly did. The door’s metal knob dug into his elbow. “You’ll excuse me for hoping you came to your senses.”

“The city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon; for the glory of God did lighten it. Tonight, Dad. When my name is called from the Book of Life, I will let go of my senses.”

“I see.” A Volkswagen bus was parked at the curb, light in color, possibly white. He couldn’t tell much more in the darkness. “But why in God’s name are you here? If you really still believe. I know you didn’t come to save me.”

“The Teacher gave me a mission.” The Teacher was Daniel Hawker, leader of Mary’s cult. Of all the people inhabiting this world, he was the one Scott Chambers saw as least deserving of air, food, water, and sleep.

“Wait – Hawker wants you to save me? Seriously?”

“I must try to give sight to one of the blind.”

“And you chose me?”

“The Teacher did the choosing. Maybe-” She lifted her bag. “Your blindness stood out.”

The retired stenographer in the house directly across from Scott’s peeked out from between her blinds, carving a sliver of flickering blue, the light from her TV. Ms. Brearty. Always calling roof and glass repairmen to her house for estimates on work she’d never do.

“And you have – what – five hours to pull this off?” he asked.

“My mission is to try.” She walked around him and into the house and placed her bag on the hallway carpet. “You’re the one with five hours. Clock’s ticking.”

He started to say, “Doomsday just seemed to sneak up on me this year,” but chose instead to think before speaking. “I’m glad he sent you home. Whatever the reason.”

“That’s funny,” she said without smiling. “Sending me home. I think you’re forgetting that’s still a few hours away.”

Scott shrugged. Come midnight, this nonsense would be over. Hawker’s mask would fall to the floor, transforming him in Mary’s eyes into the lying, manipulative megalomoron that everyone else had always been able to see. This final scene had been scripted months before – when Daniel Hawker crowned himself “the true End Time Messiah” – and given its inevitability, Scott could endure watching his daughter affect an IQ one digit short of her real one. He would try harder not to agitate her. Just be glad she’s here…

Reviews and endorsements

Hallelujah City, like LaMarr’s debut novel, October Revolution, is a fast and funny read. Humor isn’t easy to pull off, but LaMarr does it effortlessly… Yet Hallelujah City is a melancholy novel, a meditation on mistakes that can never really be unmade. That tension, between laughter and tears, makes it deeper and more complex than many a New York Times bestseller.
Boulder Sunday Camera

LaMarr (October Revolution) has created a hectic, full-bodied account of a troubled young lady enmeshed in a bizarre religious cult… The plot is stocked with enough tension to hook readers until the chaotic, fiery climax.
Publishers Weekly

Tom LaMarr fulfills the early promise of his first book, October Revolution, with a daring second novel, Hallelujah City. One part Canterbury Tales, another part On the Road, it begins with a prodigal daughter arriving unannounced at her father’s door and ends thousands of miles later with an explosive confrontation at a doomsday commune. Take an unforgettable road trip to Hallelujah City. You won’t regret the ride.
Timothy Hillmer, author of Ravenhill

Quirky characters, an unlikely road trip, and a doomsday cult are the disparate threads that bind Hallelujah City. The journey takes more than a few odd and amusing turns, and author Tom LaMarr has fun with the trip while capturing the essence of a father trying to rescue his daughter… LaMarr’s sense of timing and setting are good, but what is most enjoyable are his lost-soul characters who are seeking nothing so much as redemption. And they find it, not in encountering the end of the world, but in encountering each other.
Denver Post

Tom LaMarr’s writing is both hilarious and deeply touching. I have laughed out loud while reading his novels, and have also been deeply moved by his compassion and understanding of the human condition. Here is a writer whom one reads with real pleasure.
Robert Garner McBrearty, author of Night at the Y

I can see this as a movie, up on the big screen…
Mensa Bulletin: The Magazine of American Mensa

A thought-provoking examination of how families are affected when one of their own joins a cult… Moving beyond media sensationalism, LaMarr depicts the vulnerability of those who join cults and the family suffering involved… LaMarr subtly but successfully portrays the manipulations of a self-proclaimed Messiah.
Rocky Mountain News

The result is a very unusual road trip and an explosive ending. This is a tale of family – both its failings and triumphs.

The Arkansas Traveler

If the intriguing title and the conflagration on the book’s cover don’t ignite your curiosity… LaMarr’s story blazes with characters who provide the fuel: an end-time leader with stage experience, a single dad with parenting regrets, a pregnant daughter who believes she’s delayed Judgment Day, and an author with serious doubts about his abilities to write and to stay one step ahead of the repo man. And there’s a bonus: LaMarr’s descriptions of winter in northern Minnesota will cool the scorch of summer in Iowa.
The Iowan

This is a great little book I randomly picked up in the library. It is the story of an end-times cult and what happens the day after the world fails to end. It is really more about a man and his cult member daughter and their relationship. I really enjoyed this book.
Good Reads

Making It Your Own

Available new at a great price: Hallelujah City (unmpress.com)