4 STARS OUT OF FIVE
Back in the 1980’s and 1990’s, while I was teaching high school algebra, my students would occasionally ask why one of their classmates had committed a particularly heinous act. My answer was always the same, “Because they were taught, at an early age, by the most important people in their world, that it was OK to do so.”
I would then follow up with this anecdote: “Suppose a child is born into a family of thieves. Day after day this child hears his parents discuss their thievery and observes them involved in thievery. And this child may even be taught some basic skills in the art as he toddles through the house. Now skip forward to this child’s first day of school. He steals another child’s lunch, is caught by the teacher and has punishment pronounced upon him. Can you imagine the look of incredulity on that child’s face? This veritable stranger is telling the child that his actions are wrong when the most important people in his life have taught him just the opposite. And, thus, you witness the beginnings of a sociopath.”
Now you know the basics of this novel – only it’s not thievery, it’s murder. A five-year-old child is taken from his mother and is taught to be a murderer. However, the character is not being taught to become a hired assassin. The intent is for the child to be a cold-blooded, glory-in-death, kill-for-the-sake-of-killing murderer – plain and simple.
Now, I am not an aficionado of the horror genre. I do not read Stephen King. I do not watch slasher movies. The promotional blurb for the book led me to believe that it was another genre entirely. That being said, the author plied his craft well. This book is the stuff of nightmares.
I have never been so confused after 30 pages of a book in my life. I couldn’t tell if the first person POV was being told by a male or a female, even if the character’s name was Jack. I couldn’t tell if I was reading a novel with supernatural elements involving the Devil or if I was reading an allegory that made Cyrus the equivalent of the Devil. And I couldn’t tell if the lead character had any level of sanity remaining or if I was being doomed to 265 pages containing the ramblings of a mind-muddled, drug addicted psychopath.
This book had me constantly off balance. The author’s style went from choppy and blocky, with one- to four-word phrasing, to smooth as glass in the turn of a page. The chapters flipped from current day to flashbacks. I emotionally flipped from wanting the bad guys to die to being vastly relieved that they survived. Initially, I could only read this novel in 30-page blocks, interspersing it with sections of novels that had a psychologically kinder nature.
And then it all began to make sense – metaphysical, supernatural, allegorical, psychological sense. Oh, there were still some scenes that had me shaking my head in confusion. And there were still sections of dialog that read as if the author had pulled random words out of a revolving drum and just stuck them end-to-end. But a change in my perspective had occurred – a PIVOT of attitude and realization.
That being said, perhaps you, the reader, are starting this book with the idea that our psychologically flawed and scarred main character will PIVOT from profound evil to gratifying goodness. Perhaps you hope that our main character will PIVOT from the path of destruction to some form of happily-ever-after, facing a glorious sunrise and riding off into a magnificent sunset. If you are a reader who needs these types of PIVOTs to occur, then perhaps you need to consider another book.
But if you can put those fairy tales away and persevere through the initial confusion, by the last sentence of this book, you will be facing an intriguing definition of the concept of “good,” and you will be facing a frustrating psychological cliffhanger. And you will definitely be facing an entirely new perspective into the old homily that says “Out of the frying pan, into the fire.”
I received a copy of this book through the Goodreads First Reads Giveaway program. That fact did not, in any way, influence my opinion of the book.
Cover image from Goodreads.