Tender Branson, last surviving member of a suicide death cult and sudden media superstar, finds himself on a hijacked plane with nowhere to go but down; with time running out, he tells his life's story into the plane's black box recorder. Tender Branson is not supposed to still be alive. As a member of what has been popularly dubbed the Creedish Death Cult, he should have committed suicide with his fellow cultists ten years earlier. But Tender was part of the "missionary" branch of the cult, which consisted of all the younger sons and daughters, who were taught to be the perfect domestic servants and sent out into the world to spread the Creedish message (which is apparently the value of hard work and suicide). It was while he was out in the world that the Creedish community back in Nebraska decided to commit mass suicide.
This is where Tender begins his own story. He is still a housecleaner -- since that's all he really knows how to do -- and he reports regularly to a federal caseworker from the Survivor Retention Program. This program works with similar survivors of his and other suicide cults who often feel guilt and a compulsion to follow their now-dead fellow members into the afterlife. The caseworker doesn't feel particularly confident about her capacity to keep them all alive, and to reinforce this, she often informs Tender of the ever-declining numbers of extant Creedish survivors.
While Tender spends his days cleaning the homes of the rich (for whom a Creedish domestic worker is a badge of prestige), his nights are spent on the phone. A newspaper misprint caused Tender's phone number to be listed in an ad for a suicide prevention hotline, and every night he receives calls from people contemplating taking their own lives. More often than not, Tender tells them to just to go ahead and kill themselves. He feels a sense of omnipotence, as he possesses the literal power of life and death over these needy people.
One night, he receives a phone call from a man named Trevor Hollis, who claims to be suffering from psychically-induced nightmares. Like with his other callers, Tender advises that go through with the suicide. When he later reads Trevor's obituary, and recognizes him as the caller, Tender decides on a whim to visit the man's mausoleum at the cemetery. There, he meets Trevor's sister, Fertility, who claims to have the same psychic/predictive powers as Trevor. Tender finds himself immediately and strangely attracted to her. After some initial reluctance on her part, they start spending more time together.
Meanwhile, Tender's caseworker informs him of two important facts: 1) There are now only two Creedish survivors left, and 2) All the other suicides of the last few years were, in fact, murders staged to look like suicides. Tender later receives a threatening phone call from his twin brother, Adam. Tender realizes that Adam is the other survivor and that he must also be the murderer. His only conclusion is that he himself will probably be next.
When word gets out that the Creedish survivors have been whittled down so far, Hollywood agents come knocking on Tender's door, intending to turn his survival notoriety into religious fame. Tender is reluctant at first, but when he finds his caseworker murdered -- in a manner he knows was meant for him -- he agrees and is flown to New York immediately to be transformed into a media superstar. A total makeover (hair, clothes, tanning sprays, steroids) turns him into someone he doesn't even recognize anymore. But the American public just eats it up. The upcoming Super Bowl halftime show is going to be his main event.
Adam at last catches up to Tender, and they, along with Fertility, concoct some elaborate nonsense about killing Tender's agent and having him escape from all that during the halftime show. At the show, Adam secretly kills the agent, Tender (at Fertility's psychic urging) predicts which team will win the game, and chaos erupts as the fans rush the field. In the maelstrom, the three of them escape.
Tender is unsettled and unfocused and accidentally crashes the getaway car. Adam is mildly mangled, but for some reason insists that he is going to be caught for the murders. He demands that Tender beat his face with a rock to disfigure it, so no prisoners will want to sexually assault him. Tender is reluctant, but soon he's beating Adam so hard that Adam dies, which was clearly Adam's intent all along.
Tender and Fertility leave his body and finish their escape to Oregon. Once there, Tender, despite years of cultish brainwashing about the dangers and immorality of any kind of sexual contact, has sex with Fertility. Fertility claims to now be pregnant. After making a prediction that a hijacker will seize her plane, she then flees to the airport and boards a plane for Australia. In a panic, Tender follows and soon realizes that he himself is that hijacker.
And then here we are, all caught up to the timeline's present moment. He has forced Fertility and the other passengers to safely bail out, and now, after dictating his life's story into black box which he knows will survive any crash, he notes that the last of the engines has died out, and he can sense his imminent death, his long-awaited suicide, rapidly approaching. The novel ends here, mid-sentence.
Best part of story, including ending:
Like all of Palahniuk's work, if you're in the mood for dark, twisted, and funny, it doesn't really get better than this.
Best scene in story:
I loved the scene where Fertility calls the "suicide hotline" after Trevor's death. She proceeds to go into a lengthy diatribe against the weirdo she just met at the mausoleum, not realizing (or do her psychic abilities make her aware?) that she is speaking to that same man. Classic, messed-up dramatic irony.
Opinion about the main character:
Tender is a believable depiction of a death cult's survivor. I can't imagine many authors could delve into that state of mind very effectively, or make it darkly hilarious.
Tender Branson, the last surviving member of a religious cult, chronicles his entire life story as he is set to plummet to his death aboard a jet liner. He relives his childhood, his dull jobs cleaning rich people's houses, and how he came to be the pseudo-savior the world was looking for.
The review of this Book prepared by Ryan Holden
The main character has just hijacked a 747 and is the only person left on board. Through the assistance of the "black box", he narrates his story of being the last remaining survivor of an infamous "death cult". His upbringing has taught him to kill himself, and his struggle with that is ongoing.
The review of this Book prepared by kenny bates