Damned (novel)

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Damned Palahniuk.jpg
Doubleday cover
Author Chuck Palahniuk
Country United States
Language English
Publisher Jonathan Cape
Publication date
September 1, 2011
Media type Print (Hardcover)
Pages 247
ISBN 978-0-224-09115-2
Preceded by Tell All
Followed by Invisible Monsters Remix

Damned is a 2011 novel by Chuck Palahniuk, which was published by Jonathan Cape (UK) on 1 September 2011, and published by Doubleday (US) on October 18, 2011.[1][2][3] The plot concerns Madison Spencer, a thirteen-year-old girl who finds herself in Hell, unsure of why she has been sent there for all eternity, but tries to make the best of it.

It is based on the structure of Judy Blume novels, particularly Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. The author has described the novel as "if The Shawshank Redemption had a baby by The Lovely Bones and it was raised by Judy Blume."[4] and "it's kind of like The Breakfast Club set in Hell."[5] Palahniuk said the novel was written as a way to deal with his mother's death from lung cancer in 2009.[4][6]

The novel was met with a highly positive review in the New York Journal of Books following its publication.[7]


The novel opens with 13-year-old Madison "Maddy" Spencer waking in Hell, unsure of the details surrounding her death. She believes she died of a marijuana overdose while her celebrity parents were attending the Oscars. Maddy quickly gets to know her nearby cellmates. The group (loosely modeled on the archetypes of characters from The Breakfast Club, i.e., a rocker, a nerd, a beauty and a jock) take Maddy on a tour of Hell.

In Hell, Madison works as a telemarketer, calling the living during mealtimes to ask them inane survey questions. For the most part, only the terminally ill and elderly answer Madison's surveys and they're charmed by her, so much so that she convinces them to commit mortal sins so they can spend eternity in Hell with her. Madison becomes the top recruiter of souls for the damned and begins to collect an army of admirers and friends with whom she conquers all of the "bullies" of Hell including: Adolf Hitler, Vlad the Impaler, King Ethelred II and Catherine de Medici. She uses her new-found army to beautify hell and orders them to paint the bats to make them look more like birds, drain a lake of saliva, etc. Madison's sway becomes so large that eventually Satan himself tries to convince her that she's one of his own creations, specially designed to lure souls into his dominion.

Throughout the novel, we see Madison's interactions with the living as well as the dead as she tries to piece together the events surrounding her death, and figure out how best to cope with her dire circumstances. She eventually learns that she was accidentally strangled to death by her adopted brother, Goran, in a game of erotic asphyxiation that she learned while attending boarding school.

Just as Madison begins to carve a niche for herself, she finds out she was sent to Hell in error and can go to heaven, if she so chooses. Instead, she opts to stay in Hell. The novel concludes with a cliffhanger as Madison goes to confront Satan, suggesting that her adventures will continue in a sequel.