A Good and Happy Child

A Good and Happy Child

By Justin Evans

From Publishers Weekly

Evans manages to take a familiar concept—the young child haunted by a demon invisible to others—and infuse it with psychological depth and riveting suspense. The setting alternates between George Davies's difficult childhood in Preston, Va., a small college town, after his father Paul's untimely death, and his equally challenging life as an adult and new father in New York City. Ostracized by his classmates and emotionally isolated by his mother, a struggling academic, young George begins to be visited by a doppelgänger, who, like the ghost of Hamlet's father, intimates that foul play was involved in Paul's death. When those visitations lead to violence, George begins receiving psychiatric treatment. Meanwhile, some of his late father's colleagues claim that demonic possession is a reality. Evans subtly evokes terror and anxiety with effective understatement. (May)
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That review seemed like a good starting off point, at least for providing a basic outline of what you are getting yourself into. I read this book after Let the Right One In, and was looking for another book to intrigue me and, well… creep me out a bit. It did, here and there, but not as much as I hoped for (though I am beginning to wonder if this is actually an issue of having a high fear threshold).

Any time the “friend” shows himself, I was definitely feeling the hair stand up on the back of my neck and the tension grows perfectly to maintain a sense of realism- which only makes the entire situation more haunting.

Evans did have a couple elements that I found a bit troubling. For one, the book walks the line between being extremely compelling and…how do I say this without sounding like an ass or completely anti-religion.... too Christian. It was frustrating, as an academic and avid reader to have a college professor as a character who, because she does not believe in Christian lore, is portrayed as the “other”- as the problem to overcome, as someone who needs to open their eyes and see the truth. I understand that the entire premise for this novel is based in religious legend (and I say legend because demon possession is not openly accepted as a reality by most sects) but I feel it could have been approached in a slightly more secular way- making it an issue not of religion, but of ancient secret and truth.

My other issue was the ending. A Good and Happy Child builds and builds, to the point where you are so involved that you simultaneously cannot wait for yet dread the arrival of the end of the book. I was completely invested, having decided that Evans managed to relatively gracefully toe the line of Christian agenda vs. universally enjoyable reading experience, and approached the end with my heart pumping. When I got there, I was not disappointed nor was I satisfied. For quite possibly the first time in my reading experience, I was completely confused. I have no idea if the ending was happy, sad, or scary… was it a resolution or a declaration that there would be no end in sight? Was it a positive end or a negative? Should I feel… I don’t even know. I know that sounds unbelievable, to completely not understand an ending… but I am telling you, I have no freaking clue.

I totally enjoyed the experience of reading this book and would recommend it to you- especially those of you who are avid/seasoned readers- for one because it was a fun adventure but mainly because I need someone to tell me if they understand what the hell the ending is all about.

Help me, friend.

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