Sep 15, 2014

A Good and Happy Child, by Justin Evans

This is a literary thriller right up my alley: narrated by George, first as a grown man then as an eleven-year-old boy, the supporting cast of characters includes a medievalist, a psychologist, and a gay southern eccentric professor who reminds me exceedingly of my mother's friend Lanny. George, whose father passed away after a trip to Honduras, starts seeing/hallucinating a young boy who tells him that his father's death wasn't an accident and that his father's best friend, Tom Harris, planned his murder because he was in love with George's mother. Upon learning of George's visitations by this boy, Tom Harris and his friends assume he is possessed by a demon - and it turns out George's father was a bit of a celebrity exorcist - while George's psychiatrists want to put him in a long-term home for mentally insane children. Either way, it's a lot for a kid to handle.

We get a hefty dose of medieval Christian mysticism and Catholicism, much to my delight, which doesn't slow the pacing down at all. The book is a page-turner, but much better written than your average bestseller. The short chapters devoted to George as an adult, as a father who is deathly afraid of holding, or even touching, his infant son, devolve into what we would probably deem psychosis, as George's eleven-year-old self is torn between the mother he loves dearly and the inner circle of his father's friends that he desperately wants acceptance into. I had to read the ending a few times to figure it out, but when I did I saw its beauty. How does one break the chain of fatherly distance, anger, and disappointment? You'll have to read it to find out, and you'll be glad you did.

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