A Good and Happy Child – Justin Evans

Even though I’m not officially participating in RIP this year,  I too have caught the bug.  There is just something about the cooler mornings and evenings, even though the days are still hot, that reminds you that fall and all the goodness that comes with it is just around the corner.  I have been trying to find an engaging horror novel that will not only give me some nightmares, but also keep me interested.  I’ve tried a few and put them all down.  All that was before A Good and Happy Child.

A Good and Happy Child even began with one of my novel pet peeves: 2nd person.  Fortunately I flipped ahead to make sure the entire novel wasn’t in 2nd person and it was not, so I did not mind the few chapters that were.  The novel begins with George Davies revealing to his psychiatrist (the you at the beginning) that he cannot hold his newborn child.  He cannot even go near him, let alone touch him.  His wife, fed up, has requested that he go see the psychiatrist to get some help, or she will leave him.  His psychiatrist requests that George write about something that happened to him as a child in notebooks for the psychiatrist to read later.  Those notebooks make up the bulk of the novel.

After his father dies, George begins to experience weird things.  He sees a small boy who talks to him and tells him to do things, often without George remembering.  Eventually these things get noticed by his mother and his father’s friends, leading to a visit to the mental hospital.

I don’t read a lot of horror novels, but when I do, I want them to have certain qualities.  I want there to be ambiguity; I want the reader to have to decide if what happened was real or not.  Were there actually demons?  Or was it all in the main character’s head?  I don’t like it when the book itself makes a judgement one way or another and A Good and Happy Child delivered on this aspect.  The events are terrifying, yes, but since they are memories from a childhood there is always that possibility that they are not real.  But!  There is always the possibility they are.  That’s what makes it so scary.

The setting also has to be perfect.  I particularly loved the setting of A Good and Happy Child because it was Virginia and there is plenty of creepy to go around in my home state.  Though the university setting of most of the book  is fiction, it is easy to replace it with real locations in the area.

The structure is important as well.  It has to build suspense and create tension.  I think if the novel had been told from the perspective of Young George it would not have been successful as Adult George telling the story.  There is the added element of faulty memory.

If you can’t tell, I really really liked this novel.  No, it’s not going to shatter any literary circles.  The writing is not necessarily beautiful, but it is well-written and extremely successful.  (Also, I had nightmares.  Bonus points.)  More bonus points?  This is Evans’s first novel.  This is a perfect RIP read and a perfect read for Halloween.

So go read this!: now | tomorrow | next week | next month | next year | when you’ve exhausted your TBR pile

Other reviews: books i done read.

Did you read and review A Good and Happy Child? Let me know in the comments and I will link you here!

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10 thoughts on “A Good and Happy Child – Justin Evans

  1. Sounds like a good one! Assuming I’m able to get past the second person, which is far from my favorite literary device. It always feels a bit put on to me.

  2. You’ve convinced me that I need to get a copy of this one! I actually remember Tony picking it out for me when we were at our local used bookstore a while back but it was too expensive for me to pick it up on a whim… now I wish I had! 2nd person narratives actually don’t bother me at all, so the fact that this uses one for a bit intrigues me all the more. And I’m glad that there’s a good deal of ambiguity to the story itself, because I agree that with things that are meant to be scary, it’s nice to be able to bring your own interpretations to the table. Great review, and now I’m excited to see if my library has a copy!

  3. Oh, I am SO reading this. I have a hard time finding good horror novels that produce the desired amount of atmosphere, dread, and genuine creepy feelings. Anytime there are things that happen in a person’s childhood which are then reexamined, it usually turns out well (I mean, bad, but bad for them and good for us as readers!)

  4. Great write-up, I am normal visitor of one’s site, maintain up the excellent operate, and It’s going to be a regular visitor for a long time.

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