It’s All Right ‘Cause There’s Beauty In The Breakdown

Although Halloween isn’t until next week, this will be my final Saturday Book Club post this October … And I saved the best horror/thriller novel for last.

The book I’ll be reviewing today was one of the best books I read in 2012.  After finishing it, I couldn’t get it out of my head for weeks.  The prose was beautiful, and the story was disturbing and haunting … It was basically everything I look for in a novel.


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A Good and Happy Child by Justin Evans

320 pages

A Good and Happy Child is a blend of psychological thriller and horror story.  The book tells the story of George Davies, alternating between events that occurred when he was 11 years old and his present life as a 30-something New Yorker.

The novel opens with adult George visiting a therapist.  He’s a new father having difficulty connecting with his infant son … So much so that he hasn’t even been able to hold him.  This is obviously taking its toll not only on him, but on his wife as well.  During this session, George mentions this isn’t his first time visiting a therapist.  He’s asked about his previous experience, and he reluctantly gives a few details … He was 11 years old, it was a mostly positive experience, etc.  His current therapist then asks him to write in some notebooks for him, drawing on the memories he has from that time.

Through these notebooks, we get to know George as an 11 year old boy growing up in Virginia … Chubby and awkward, but extremely intelligent.  During the summer that year, his father went to Central America (he’s fuzzy on the details of the trip).  On this trip, his father falls ill and eventually dies in a hospital back home.

In the months following his father’s death, George begins having strange visions … Seemingly harmless at first, but growing more and more ominous with time.

This is where I’ll stop with the summary, as I don’t want to give away too much!

As I mentioned, I loved this book … I literally couldn’t put it down!  The imagery is haunting and frightening (I actually had a nightmare related to events in this book!).  This was the author’s first novel, but it definitely doesn’t read like a debut.  Justin Evans is very talented … I would definitely read more of his work in the future.

One of the things I liked most about A Good and Happy Child was the ambiguous ending.  I know that some people really hate ambiguity, but I tend to prefer it.  I like having the opportunity to draw my own conclusions.  I actually really hate it when writers feel the need to spell everything out for the reader.

I’ll leave you with one of the blurbs at the beginning of the book … This pretty much sums it up:

A Good and Happy Child unsettles the imagination with its twisting path into a private hell.  Evans’s story tingles with psychological suspense as it explores the subterranean world where faith meets fear, reminding us how hard it is to rid ourselves of our demons.” – Keith Donohue, author of The Stolen Child

I would, without question, recommend this book to others.  I loved everything about it … I wouldn’t change a thing!  I would also definitely read this again in the future.

I rate A Good and Happy Child a solid FIVE STARS.  Read it.  Now!


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