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Book: A Good and Happy Child

September 28, 2010

Oh, I loved this. Another RIP and a genuinely chilling book. FINALLY.

George Davies is a new father. He should be happy. He has everything a man could want: beautiful wife, new son, nice apartment in the city, a good job. And yet… he cannot pick up his own child. He is afraid to be near him. He wants to protect the baby… from what? Himself? Eventually this gets so bad that his wife insists he go to therapy, get some kind of help. He starts to talk to the therapist, who pulls the story from him by asking him to write down his memories from his childhood in journals. The story comes out in pieces, slowly, then gaining speed.

As a child, George’s parents were too busy being professors to pay much attention to him. He was an ordinary child, gifted but not extraordinary, a bit of a social outcast at school. Things are made worse when George’s father suddenly dies after becoming deathly ill in Honduras while on a mission. His mother starts to date a little bit too soon. The kids at school tease him. And then suddenly, something happens which changes George forever. Someone… someTHING comes into his life unexpectedly, and begins to help George see how things really are. Can George trust this new friend?

Weaving together the flip-side theories of psychological disturbance and demon possession, this book was genuinely scary in places. I got chills, and I had pretty much given up getting chills from books any more. The actual scary bits were not violent or terribly supernatural (with a couple of exceptions), and yet they were shocking and deeply unsettling.

Good writing helped things along, and a nice deep religious thread kept things pulled together. Do you fall into the modern camp that says demon possession is impossible? That cases of “possession” are really manifestations of mental illness? Or do you fall into the old-school camp which says, as Hamlet does, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

One thing this book makes a sure point of: modern psychology can explain a lot of things, but not everything.

The ending came a bit quickly and wasn’t entirely satisfying, but everything else was really well done and thoughtfully researched.

I loved this book so much and read it in a giant gulp. Scary, interesting, sympathetic characters, lots to think about, decent writing, an unusual presentation of a classic storyline (a la The Exorcism). I highly recommend this one for shiver-inducing October reading!

11 Comments leave one →
  1. September 28, 2010 9:41 pm

    Oh I’m DYING to read this book!! I read a review of it somewhere else too but can’t remember where…sounds awesome 😀

    • September 29, 2010 10:47 am

      It was really good, I highly recommend it!

    • October 6, 2010 12:42 am

      I reviewed it a couple weeks ago, maybe there?

  2. September 29, 2010 7:36 am

    Fun! Sounds like a perfect RIP book. I’m in the psychological camp for demon possession, doesn’t mean the The Exorcist doesn’t give me nightmares though! You might want to re Doris Lessing’s The Fifth Child sometime. Not demon possession exactly but something is really off about the kid.

    • September 29, 2010 11:45 am

      Oh, that sounds good. I am not sure what camp I’m in about demons. I think I’m inclined to believe anything is possible, but I don’t know what that is, really.

  3. September 29, 2010 11:21 am

    ooh this sounds good. and so does the one stefanie mentioned.

    • September 29, 2010 11:45 am

      I think you’d like this one. Not terribly scary, but some good creepy stuff. And just a good book overall. Great October book.

  4. September 29, 2010 5:09 pm

    Gotta read this.

  5. October 6, 2010 12:43 am

    I loved this one, too. It was a perfect RIP read and an awesome horror novel. Gave me chills too!

  6. October 6, 2010 9:00 am

    I’m glad you enjoyed this. I read it in a single insomniac night (insomniac because I was reading it, probably). It was my favorite book of last year. Like you, I think his writing played a big part in the subtle creep-out. It was one of those books where I came away saying “how did he DO that?!”, which I love. I wish he would write another. One of the worst parts for me (until I knew where would be even worse parts) was the bungling academics’ intervention/exorcism. The book said a lot that was true about child-adult relations. So much action on so many levels.

  7. AKM permalink
    November 4, 2010 7:59 am

    I’ll have to check this one out! For the record, I’m in the psychological camp re: demonic possession, but I still find the subject deliciously creepy!

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