The Sisters Brothers—Patrick DeWitt [2011]

It’s been said that the best gift you can give someone is something they wouldn’t buy for themselves. Taking that into consideration, receiving a Christmas gift in the form of Patrick DeWitt’s second novel, 2011’s The Sisters Brothers, is made all the better. I’m not a huge fan of Westerns—I’ve never even read any from one of my literary idols, Elmore Leonard—and had I seen this on the shelf at my local bookstore I probably wouldn’t have given it a second thought, and good grief, would that have been my loss.

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A pair of contract killers during the height of the gold rush, Charlie and Eli Sisters are both brutal and ruthless, yet very different at the same time. Charlie, the elder, is wild and cocksure, while younger Eli is more contemplative and soft—emotionally and physically, thanks to his ample gut—and it’s through his eyes we’re told the story.

The men work for The Commodore, a scrupleless businessman who hires the brothers to travel from Oregon City to San Francisco to kill a man named Hermann Kermit Warm (if awards were given for character names, I’d bestow one upon DeWitt for this one). The Commodore has a scout in San Francisco, Morris, keeping tabs on Mr. Warm, whom the brothers are to meet upon arriving in town so he can provide them with Hermann’s whereabouts. On the surface it’s a simple plot about a hired hit, but there’s so much more to it than that. At its core, it’s about Eli’s yearning for a simpler, less violent life—maybe settling down with a good woman and becoming a shopkeeper—and the changes he and Charlie go through by the time they get back to Oregon City.

DeWitt does a marvelous job setting the tone for the novel from the outset: Having finished their last job, Eli sits outside on his new horse while Charlie is inside, discussing the pair’s next job with The Commodore. Both the brothers’ horses were burned up during their last assignment, and The Commodore has replaced them with new horses that show just what he thinks of the brothers—suave, dapper Charlie is given a fit, sturdy horse named Nimble, while Eli receives the “portly and low-backed” horse, Tub. While initially not fond of him, Eli comes to find he has a begrudging respect for Tub, sensing that the animal has “a desire to improve himself.” Over the course of the book we discover this applies to our narrator as well.

Comparisons abound for The Sisters Brothers, from the books of Cormac McCarthy to the classic westerns of John Wayne and Clint Eastwood to the more off-kilter films from the Coen Brothers, even to legendary graphic novelist Frank Miller. I feel the best description is as a mash up between the brutal violence of McCarthy with the sometimes borderline absurdity of the Coen Brothers’ quirkier pictures. The picaresque nature of the story, as the brothers encounter one memorable, quirky character after another, calls to mind O Brother, Where Art Thou? (itself a loose retelling of Homer’s The Odyssey). It’s a bit of a shame the Coens aren’t involved in the film adaptation slated for release later this year, starring Joaquin Phoenix and John C. Riley as Charlie and Eli.

One absurdly comic scene in the book involves the brothers finding shelter in a small home occupied by an old woman who the brothers are convinced is a witch. When they rise the following morning to find the witch gone and what they believe to be a cursed garment blocking the doorway, Charlie climbs out through a window, resolving to get help and return for his brother, who is too rotund to follow Charlie through said window.

The first half of the book is made up of several such odd encounters, my favorite of which involves a teenage boy who has been abandoned by his father. After remarking that nearly every run in he’d had with people ended with him being hit in the head, Eli sympathizes with the boy, although after ceaseless pleading from the boy to join them on their travels, Eli almost takes the same action toward him:

“I do not know what it was about that boy but just looking at him, even I wanted to clout him on the head. It was a head that invited violence.”

Eli’s narration is strikingly eloquent and formal, a stark contrast to the contemporary novels I’ve spent the majority of my life reading, as well as a contrast to the story’s odd humor and occasional instances of brutal violence. Once Eli and Charlie reach San Francisco to make contact with Morris (and subsequently Warm), the plot shifts from somewhat absurd to slightly surreal, with a finale that’s in turns funny, somber, and touching.

I found reading this book a joy, with nary a misstep throughout. There was one brief passage I found myself flipping through, but I am notoriously impatient. The short chapters made for an easy, addicting read, and a book that I had a hard time putting down. I really can’t recommend it highly enough, so go pick it up and treat yourself to the gift of a good book.

***A final quote from Mr. Warm, one which I found highly relatable:

“Most people are chained to their own fear and stupidity and haven’t the sense to level a cold eye at just what is wrong with their lives. Most people will continue on, dissatisfied but never attempting to understand why, or how they might change things for the better, and they die with nothing in their hearts but dirt and old, thin blood—weak blood, diluted—and their memories aren’t worth a goddamned thing.”

Buy The Sisters Brothers here.

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American Psycho by Brett Easton Ellis (1991) — If anyone needs me, I’ll just be in the shower until Halloween

I’ve mentioned before my disdain for books that are slow going out of the gate. My patience is short if something doesn’t happen right away. If American Psycho’s reputation hadn’t preceded it, I may have given up on it as I read 40, 50, even 60 pages in and nothing of note had happened yet. However, knowing there was a lot coming down the line, I stuck it out and kept reading. Man, am I glad I did.

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I saw the film version a long time ago (so long ago that it was in theaters), and I didn’t remember a lot about it. One thing I did recall was some people calling the book ‘unfilmable.’ I never really got why until I read it. This book—the tale of Patrick Bateman, a yuppie Wall Street serial killer—is freakin’ crazy.

First, the good news: once you’re far enough into it, this book is completely captivating. It’s a bit like watching a train wreck—you may not want to look (read), but damn if you can’t take your eyes away. It takes some time to get there, but once it does it sucks you in like few books I’ve read do. Even though there are really no likable characters in the book, you still find yourself fascinated by them.

Now the bad news: it’s definitely not for everyone. It’s a good book, but only if you can stomach it. Sex, violence, animal cruelty, all described in incredibly graphic detail. I would put it just slightly below The End of Alice on the skeevy scale I just made up. Which makes it all that much stranger to say, yes, it’s a really good book—you know, that one with the torture and cannibalism? Yeah, really good.

And while it’s not necessarily every reader’s cup of tea, I would recommend any writers out there read it, just to see how far Ellis pushes the reader. The narrative is kind of all over the place. One chapter has no real beginning or end, there are chapters devoted to 80’s pop music, and at one point in the height of the action it jumps inexplicably from 1st to 3rd person, then back again a couple pages later. It’s actually quite amazing what he does with this book.

It takes you on a ride, and whether you like it or not—the ending leaves you with more questions than answers—you won’t soon forget it.

A Simple Plan by Scott Smith (1993) — I’ll Try Not to Gush

Since I started reading a lot again a couple of years ago, I’ve read some pretty good books. Even a few really good books. But I hadn’t read one that really floored me, leaving me in awe of what a brilliant piece of work it was. Until now.

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A Simple Plan tells the story of three men in rural Ohio who find a plane with $4.4 million (along with a dead pilot) at a crash site  in a snow-covered nature preserve: there’s Hank, the mild-mannered accountant whose first instinct is to give the money back; Jacob, Hank’s older, alcoholic, loser brother; and Lou, Jacob’s best friend who also just happens to be up to his armpits in debt and is the first one to suggest that they should split the money.

Hank (being the de facto smart one in the group) decides that he will sit on the money for six months while they wait for the snow to melt and the plane to be discovered, then watch the news for reports of the missing money. If, after the six months is up, no one seems to be looking for the loot, they split it up three ways and all become instant millionaires.

See? Simple.

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Needless to say, it doesn’t take long for the shit to hit the fan and their simple plan to go out the window. In my head while I was reading, I wondered what the worst case scenario was—how bad things could possibly get. Everything I imagined as the worst possible outcome had already happened by the halfway mark. That left me engrossed in the book in a way I haven’t been since I was a kid, reading Stephen King books late at night on my bed. At one point near the end, I found myself on a lunch break at work reading while I walked to the restroom. I just could not put this book down.

One thing that bugs me about some books is that they strike me as too “writery.” There’s a term for it; it’s called “purple prose”—when an author is overly descriptive and wordy. Scott Smith is the opposite. Like his other novel, the similarly excellent 2006 horror story The Ruins, his writing is very straight forward in a way that never gets bogged down with unnecessary description. And since A Simple Plan is written in the first person, it really felt like the protagonist was sitting there talking directly to you, telling you the story.

Part of the brilliance of the story is the way things seem to unfold organically, gradually getting worse and worse, and the characters reacting accordingly then rationalizing their actions. Hank—and Hank’s pregnant wife—become masters at rationalizing the things they’ve done. It makes you wonder how far normal people can be pushed under extreme circumstances.

Of course, it should go without saying this book is not for everyone. There is A LOT of violence, sometimes quite graphic, and if that’s not your cup of tea you probably won’t like it. In some ways it reminded me of the films Fargo or Very Bad Things, albeit with a much more serious tone.

For me, though, it was a brilliantly told story with an ending that, while not exactly a ‘twist’ ending, you don’t see coming. Once you read it, however, you wonder if any other ending could fit so perfectly. It’s a gut-wrenching conclusion to a story that might make you second guess if you’d ever be tempted enough to think about keeping found money.

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill (2007) : A Rock ‘n’ Roll Ghost Story

Ghost stories tend to be hit or miss with me. A lot of times I don’t get into them, but if one manages to get its hooks in me, I’ll usually love it. Joe Hill managed to do the impossible and create one that’s smack dab in the middle of the road.

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Judas Coyne—not his real name—is a semi-retired, world famous rock star, along the lines of Ozzy, with a taste for the macabre. He has a vast collection of items related to the occult, voodoo, and witchcraft, so when Jude, as he’s mostly called, is alerted to an online auction claiming to sell a haunted suit, he buys in instantly, no questions asked. When the suit arrives (in a heart-shaped box, as suits do), it doesn’t take long before Jude starts seeing the ghost of a creepy old man dressed in the suit and swinging a pendulum-shaped razor blade hanging on a chain. From there so begins the journey to find who the old man is, why he’s haunting Jude, and, as things escalate, how to stop him.

The book starts like gangbusters. Sometimes ghost stories—and haunted house stories, for that matter—go for the slow burn, building anticipation until there’s a grand reveal. With HSB, Joe Hill gives us the ghost in the first few pages and we’re off to the races, which I really appreciate. I like books that just kick right off without any mucking around.

The ghost is/was a hypnotist, and has a strong power of suggestion, putting thoughts in people heads in an attempt to influence their actions. There’s some excellent creepy imagery tied to this, in the first half especially, including a scene involving Jude’s girlfriend watching a snuff film with a gun in her mouth that made my skin crawl. Once we hit the midway point, however, the book falters a little.

Jude and his girlfriend, Georgia/Marybeth, head out on a road trip (with his two dogs, who play an important role) from Jude’s home in upstate New York down to Georgia, Florida, and ultimately Louisiana, in an attempt to stop the ghost. There are some pretty decent moments throughout the second half, but nothing that matches the scare and creep factors in the first half.

It was interesting to read a book with fairly contemporary rock ‘n’ roll references—Rancid, Anthrax, and Trent Reznor are all mentioned in the book, among others—but it seemed to me he was trying to hard to work the whole ‘heart-shaped box’ in there. It felt almost like he’d thought of a good title, one that referenced a popular song (by Nirvana, if anyone didn’t know) and fit the rock aspect of the book, then tried to force it into the story whether it worked or not.

Part of me is glad I read this after reading Hill’s superior last novel, NOS4A2. If I’d read HSB when it first came out, knowing—despite the name change—that it was the debut novel from Stephen King’s son, I’m sure I would’ve been a lot harder on it. But reading it now, knowing what the author is capable of, it’s easier to accept HSB for what it is: a really good—but not great—way to spend a few hours creeping yourself out.

The Ruins by Scott Smith (2006): Making Vines with Pretty Red Flowers Absolutely Terrifying

I’m scrapping my previous book review formula, The Quarterly Book Report. It made for posts that were too long (I felt), and forced me to condense my thoughts on a book down too far. From here on out, I’ll just drop a review randomly as I finish a book, capiche? I finished this book a month or so ago, but since I just decided to scrap the old format I’m reviewing it now.

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I watched the movie version of The Ruins a few years ago on cable, and liked it well enough. I remember it being a little cheesy, but in a cool , B-movie kind of way. Ultimately I thought it was ‘just okay.’ Then a couple of years ago when I started really getting into reading again, I wanted to see what had been going on with books in the horror genre, and I found list after list of Best Horror Novels of X amount of years, and The Ruins kept popping up on the lists with the same comment: “The book is so much better than the movie.” Everybody says that about books made into movies, so I didn’t think a whole lot about it until one day, about two months ago, I found The Ruins along with Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn at my local used bookstore—quite the score indeed.

 The Ruins tells the story of six tourists on a Mexican vacation—four Americans, a German, and a Greek—who embark on an adventure to find the German’s brother, who’s run off with a woman he met and gone to the site of a supposed archeological dig. Following a crude, hand-drawn map, the group takes a bus ride, hitches a ride in the back of a truck (with a vicious dog in tow), and hikes extensively into and back out of a small village before finding a hidden trail.

The trail leads them to an massive hill overgrown with vines with little red flowers. Villagers show up and try to scare the tourists away, but language barriers inevitably lead to mass confusion, and when one of the tourists makes contact with the vines the villagers then force the tourists (at gun and arrow point) to hike the narrow trail leading up the hill. At the top the tourists find a couple of abandoned tents battered by the elements and a few supplies left by whoever was there last.

The first half of the  novel reminded me of a straight-forward survival story. This group of people, stranded with practically no supplies except what they happened to grab before leaving their luxurious hotel—water, a couple of protein bars, some fruit, and a bottle of tequila—and the empty tents and supplies, struggle to survive and find a way off the hill, which remains patrolled by the villagers.

Confident help will arrive in the form of the Greek’s friends (for whom he left a copy of the map), the group tries to make do. At the bottom of a mineshaft the group hears what appears to be a cell phone ringing, and rig up a contraption to lower the Greek down to look for it. The rope they’re using to lower him snaps (due in no small part to the acidic sap of the vines, which has eaten away some of the rope) and the Greek plummets down the shaft, severely injuring himself. The others manage to get him out, and now must contend with caring for a critically wounded person on top of their already surreal dilemma.

To say any more would spoil the book, except to say that the vines turn out to be much more than just acidic. The initial denial the characters feel—how things like this just don’t happen, and their certainty that they will be rescued—is gradually replaced by an overwhelming sense of dread, as they begin to wonder if they will, in fact, die on the vine-covered hill.

Scott Smith’s writing style struck me as sort of minimalistic—almost businesslike. There’s no excessive descriptions or long tangents about things that don’t matter. At over 500 pages I was expecting to skim some passages, but it’s actually a lean, no BS story.

Between Smith’s style and the fact that there are no chapters to separate parts of the book, I initially thought the book was oddly written, but was quickly consumed by the story. In the two years or so since I started reading regularly again, this is easily the best book I’ve read, and although it is classified as horror, I think people who don’t normally enjoy the genre could still get into this book. At one point about halfway through, I was so caught up in the group’s struggles just to survive that I forgot about the vines altogether.

Scott Smith has only written one other novel, his debut, 1993’s A Simple Plan, which Smith himself adapted for the big screen in 1998, directed by Sam Raimi and starring Billy Bob Thornton, Bill Paxton, and Bridget Fonda. I’ve neither read the book or seen the movie, but both are now on my short list of things to read and watch.

There you have it, as high a recommendation as I can give to The Ruins—2 Jobes Up, if you will. Give it a shot and see if you don’t allow a little extra room the next time you walk past your spider plant.

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The BoJ Quarterly Book Report: Summer Edition

I’m staying just about on pace for my new year’s resolution of reading a book a month. I got ahead at one point, but between running into a couple of books that were hard to make myself read and other stuff that made me not want to read at all, I slowed back down a tad. I have four reviews here, though I’ll actually be talking about five books. Not that it makes a lick of difference to you, but I’m going in reverse chronological order, starting with the book I just finished. Alrighty then, let’s get to it.

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Sharp Objects — Gillian Flynn (2006)

I liked Gone Girl quite a bit (though I understand some of the backlash it received) and was curious to see what Flynn’s other work was like. I was not disappointed.

Her debut novel centers around Camille Preaker, a talented-but-not-living-up-to-her-potential reporter living in Chicago, who is sent back to her hellhole hometown of Wind Gap, Missouri to cover the murders of two young girls, apparently the work of a serial killer—both girls had some (or all) of their teeth pulled out prior to disposal of the bodies.

Camille is not entirely mentally stable herself, as it’s revealed that she’s a cutter: she takes pleasure from carving words into her flesh, and is fresh off a stint in rehab to try and cure her of her condition. As the story goes on, however, and we meet Camille’s mother, stepdad, and half-sister, we see that Camille may be the sanest one in the family.

Thoughts as a reader: This story is dark. As in, near pitch black. It paints an ominous picture of small town life that gave me the feeling it hit very close to home for the author (who, I know from reading about her, also lived in Missouri). Most—though it should be noted not all—of the characters are really screwed up, which of course makes them interesting to read about. The ending, while I did predict it partially, still made me grin at the sick twist of what happened to the victims’  missing teeth.

Thoughts as a writer: I really enjoy Flynn’s writing voice. It’s easy to dive into her work and lose yourself. Her characters are vivid and easy to picture in your mind. With only three books under her belt (and movie deals for all three books), she has already established herself as a force to be reckoned with. Also, reminding myself that Sharp Objects was her debut is incredibly intimidating as I continue to write and rewrite the story I finally decided on to make my own first novel. It reminded me of when I was first learning to play guitar and thinking I was making some progress, then listened to BB King or Eric Clapton and realized I was only a few steps down this new path, and the masters were so far down the road they were almost out of sight.

My rating: 4 stars

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The Haunting of Hill House — Shirley Jackson (1959)

Shirley Jackson is a legend in the literary world. There is even an award named for her given to writers “for outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic.”

Widely regarded as one the all-time classic horror novels and the be all end all of haunted house stories, I was thrilled when I happened to find Hill House at my local library. I thought I owed it to myself as an aspiring horror writer (or maybe more accurately, a writer who occasionally writes horror) to check this book out and read it ASAP.

Hill House is an old mansion with a troubled past. Doctor John Montague is an investigator of the supernatural who rents the house for the summer to see what (if any) evidence can support the legend of Hill House. He and three guests occupy the house and…well, you know. It’s a haunted house story, after all.

Thoughts as a reader: I’m afraid to write this. I want to just come up to you all one by one, look in all directions to make sure the coast is clear, then whisper this to you: I did not like this book. Shhh. Don’t tell anyone. Seriously though, I don’t know what to think. This isn’t a very polarizing book that some people like and some people don’t. It is unanimously praised as one of the greatest scary stories of all time. To disagree means you’re stupid or you just don’t get it. I’ll leave it for others to decide on which side of that I fall.

The scares are subtle. Very, very subtle. So subtle they’re not even explained, and sometimes barely mentioned. But that’s not my problem with it. This book lost me before it ever got to the scares. This is a very short book, and by the 50-60 page mark I was pleading for something to just happen already. 

Thoughts as a writer: After having it hammered into your head to avoid adverbs like the plauge the majority of the time, it’s a bit distracting to read something that has them peppered in so liberally. One character “stretched luxuriously.” What the hell does that even mean? I know I’m not the smartest guy in the room a lot of the time, but seriously, what is that?

Maybe this book is too understated, too subtle for me. I just don’t know what else to say. I literally fell asleep reading this book. I will almost certainly read it again sometime, just to see if anything strikes me differently the second time around.

My rating: 3 stars (because I’m afraid to give it less, otherwise the writers’ mafia might come see me and I might meet with an unfortunate accident, capiche?)

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Double Feature — Owen King (2013)

Another find at my local library. Owen is the youngest son of Stephen King (and brother of Joe Hill), so naturally I was curious.

A novel about a young filmmaker trying to make a name for himself in his B-actor father’s shadow. Sounds vaguely familiar.

This is the only book since I started really reading again that I haven’t finished. It was a little slow (albeit interesting) from the get go, with lots of big words I had to skip over or look up. That’s okay—if you have a big vocabulary, by all means use it; it’s good for me. No, where I finally gave up was about 60-70 pages in, where I encountered something I hadn’t seen before:

A sixteen-page-long paragraph. Sixteen pages. One-six. I knew then I wouldn’t be finishing the book in the allotted 14 day period I had from the library, since it was a “new release.” I know I could’ve gotten more time, but I had also checked out Hill House and was excited to read that. I very well may come back to it sometime.

My rating: Incomplete

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Pygmy —Chuck Palahniuk (2009)

I didn’t know anything about this book before I checked it out of the library. I’ve read/listened to audiobooks of three of Palahniuk’s novels; some I liked and some I didn’t, but I would consider myself a fan of his, by and large. Earlier I used the word polarizing—you want polarizing? Here we go.

Pygmy is the tale of a covert terrorist agent from an unnamed country, sent (along with a handful of his comrades) to America under the guise of being an exchange student. He’s 13, a complete genius who has encyclopedic knowledge of science and literature, and is extensively trained in some sort of krav-maga style of martial arts—his entire body is a deadly weapon.

Oh, and did I mention: The entire book is written in broken, ‘foreigner’ English. Some people can’t deal with it; it’s distracting, to say the least.

Thoughts as a reader: I read three pages before putting the book down and saying to my wife, “I’m not going to be able to read this crap.” It kept calling me, though, and the next day I picked it back up and made myself read the first two (very short) chapters. That did it. I knew then that come hell or high-water I would finish this book. And believe it or not, I’m glad I did. It takes some concentration to get into the weird, broken English. (Sample sentence: “Here worship shrine, all male neck must bind around with knotted banner, silk banner knotted at windpipe so dangle two long strands down chest to waistband trouser.” Okay, all the men at church are wearing neck ties—got it.) And why is it that this child genius who knows how to kill people with one finger, build bombs and quote famous authors hasn’t yet gotten a grasp on basic English? You just have to suspend disbelief there, as well as a lot of other places.

And yet, the story managed to get its hooks in me and by the end I almost laughed out loud a couple times. I don’t know if this will make sense, but I felt like I was reading the novelization of an as-yet unmade John Waters movie—characters that were absurdly satirical, and lots of lame sex jokes.

Thoughts as a writer: This took balls. To be honest, I don’t know who has bigger balls: Palahniuk for writing the book, or his publisher for agreeing to put it out. I guess it’s easy to have such testicular fortitude when you’re already a best-selling author, versus some (mostly) unpublished schmuck like me. It may never make my list of best books ever, but I admire the work it had to take to make it happen, and I do have a soft spot for it. And if John Waters ever makes a movie version, I want a producer credit.

My rating: 2 stars (although my view has softened and I’m tempted to bump it to 2 1/2 or 3)

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The End of Alice — A.M. Homes (1999)

Another book I had heard a lot about. This one makes me feel weird, in both good and bad ways. I saved this one for last for a reason.

Alice is about a convicted pedophile doing his time in prison while hoping against hope for parole, when he unexpectedly becomes pen pals with a 19 year old girl. She knows who the man is (he is quite infamous because of the crimes he committed against the titular Alice, which is what put him in prison), and confesses to him that she is having similar thoughts about a 12 year old boy in her neighborhood. He is both aroused by the girl’s desires and jealous of the attention the girl gives the young boy. As the story progresses, however, it becomes clear that the girl serves as a catalyst to make our convict remember things he’s tried to forget while in prison: his primal urges, his penchant for violence, and what ultimately was ‘the end of Alice.’

Thoughts as a reader: If you’ve been reading the blog for any length of time, you’ve probably realized by now I’m no prude. Quite the opposite. I actually like stories that are weird, strange, dark, violent, disturbing, you name it. Very few books or movies get a very big reaction from me. That said, The End of Alice made me want to run screaming into a Silkwood shower and scrub myself with a Brillo pad, crying ‘unclean…unclean…’  Yeah. It’s that bad. But it’s good…if you can take it.

There is incredibly detailed description of pedophilia and horrific violence, and just when you think it can’t get any worse, it does. But the thing is, it’s written so eloquently that it sucks you in (again, if you can take it) to the point that you almost start to empathize with this monster. I doubt many of you have seen the movie Happiness, but it reminds me of Happiness if it was written by a sex-crazed version of Hannibal Lechter.

I actually liked this book a great deal, but I can’t wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone because I don’t know many people who could stomach it. If you’re not sure if you can handle it, you probably can’t. If, on the other hand, you can get through the vile acts described in the book, I found it quite good. My only real complaint is that the story was a bit anti-climactic. I thought the story was building toward what was going to happen with the girl and the 12 year old, when instead the climax of the story if finally finding out what actually happened to Alice.

Thoughts as a writer: Again, the balls it took to write something like this. And I hope this comes out sounding the way I mean it to, but I’m astonished this book was written by a woman. I’d love to know what kind of research she did to get in the head of such a despicable, evil person so completely. As sick as it is, I would read this again, even though I half-jokingly wondered once if buying it or checking out of the library put me on some kind of watch list.

My rating: 4 stars

Well, that’s it until the fall book report. I’m currently reading The Ruins by Scott Smith, and despite being intimidated by its size (not to mention having already seen the movie), at 60 pages in I’m beyond hooked.

I’d love to know your thoughts on any of the books above, whether you’ve already read them or plan to go and read them—or avoid them—because of my review. Let me know! Other than that, what about you? Read any good books lately?

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