Today, I’m sharing another book I was on the fence about reading. Based on the blurb, I was afraid the story might be too dark for me, but I’m glad I took a chance. I had no problems navigating the pages. This is such an unusual tale, I’ll let the blurb and my review carry any further thoughts.
A family returns to their hometown—and to the dark past that haunts them still—in this masterpiece of literary horror by the New York Times bestselling author of Wanderers
“The dread, the scope, the pacing, the turns—I haven’t felt all this so intensely since The Shining.”—Stephen Graham Jones, New York Times bestselling author of The Only Good Indians
Long ago, Nathan lived in a house in the country with his abusive father—and has never told his family what happened there.
Long ago, Maddie was a little girl making dolls in her bedroom when she saw something she shouldn’t have—and is trying to remember that lost trauma by making haunting sculptures.
Long ago, something sinister, something hungry, walked in the tunnels and the mountains and the coal mines of their hometown in rural Pennsylvania.
Now, Nate and Maddie Graves are married, and they have moved back to their hometown with their son, Oliver.
And now what happened long ago is happening again . . . and it is happening to Oliver. He meets a strange boy who becomes his best friend, a boy with secrets of his own and a taste for dark magic.
This dark magic puts them at the heart of a battle of good versus evil and a fight for the soul of the family—and perhaps for all of the world. But the Graves family has a secret weapon in this battle: their love for one another.
I’ve never read Chuck Wendig before, but this book was quite the experience! Nate, a former cop, moves his wife, Maddie, and fifteen-year-old son, Oliver back to his childhood home in a rural area of Pennsylvania. The house holds horrible memories for Nate—his father was horribly abusive—but it promises a new beginning away from the city. Right from the start there are a number of odd things that take place. Probably why the first half of the book was my favorite. I have a passion for early shivers and goosebumps and loved the creepy, unexplained strangeness taking place.
Build-up was fantastic—whispers of a serial killer executed decades before, a “felsenmeer” or field of boulders, an old tunnel that spurned urban legends, an abandoned coal mine, a deer and insects behaving strangely, and a mysterious figure in the woods. Having lived in Pennsylvania all my life, I could relate to so many of the rural surroundings, locales, and places that were mentioned.
But the heart of the book is its characters. I was so wrapped up in the lives of Nate, Maddie, and Oliver. Even secondary characters like Fig, Jed, and Caleb are fully fleshed out and given strong supporting roles.
It’s Oliver who turns out to be the key player. He’s gifted, but the importance of that gift only becomes apparent as the suspense rachets from simmer to boil. The story is definitely “out there.” Be prepared to dip your toes into elements of fantasy and magical realism along with horror. There are multiple twists and turns from start to finish but the ending melds everything together for a strong conclusion.
Wending has a gift with words. I loved his prose, at times beautiful and at other times vivid enough to make me feel squeamish. I also enjoyed the afterword in which he described the previous incarnations of the book and how it came to be. I’m glad he stuck with what was first a “trunk novel.” I expect this one will haunt a lot of readers.