Quiet horror in this coming of age story…
Of Foster Homes and Flies – Chad Lutzke
We have a genuine masterpiece here and I’m so glad I’ve had the pleasure to read the work of this very talented author.
(There are slight spoilers though this whole review, but I have to convince you why you should read this book)
If you want to be blessed by an emotional moving story, you have to read the tale of a young boy whose hopes and dreams are about to be dashed by a non-loving, alcoholic mother and the intervening finger of fate. The 12-year-old boy, Denny, lost his father several years ago, left to be raised by his neglectful and perpetually boozed up mother. Denny’s dad had one time won a ‘spelling bee’ at his hometown school and Denny cherished the ribbon award as a great memory from his father. Denny had never entered the spelling bee because of lack of confidence and drive. However, this year was supposed to be different. Denny had studied since the beginning of the school year, practicing, rehearsing the spellings, and preparing himself to do good in his father’s eyes and follow in his footsteps. With the Spelling Bee fast approaching there was nothing that was going to stop him from paying this ultimate homage to his dad. Then a few days before the big event, his mother dies overnight on the living room couch. In the first few minutes of this event, Denny makes a big decision. He is not going to miss the spelling bee. His mom was dead; calling the police now or at the end of the week was not going to change that. Now Denny just has to bluff his way through a few days, foiling his neighbors, ducking friends, and keeping his dog out of trouble. Throughout the tale young Denny comes to terms with the strained relationship he had with his alcoholic mother, bringing tears to my eyes several times.
It’s not straight up horror but shades of King abound with the dead body of Denny’s mom doing what dead bodies do best, being creepy.
To show you how the depth of a story affects the variant of horror, the scariest part of the book is the night before the spelling bee, when Denny has made it almost to his goal. His mother’s boozer, card playing girlfriends come by for their weekly card game ringing the bell and twisting the door knob ready to expose his mother’s rotting maggot infested body to the world. Only seconds before this Denny had caught sight of hundreds of squirming maggots devouring her forehead. He threw up on himself and had to answer the door that way, covered in puke. It probably doesn’t sound like much here but in context, this scene really made me tense.
(end of spoilers)
The story built such density that it made the spelling bee seem as exciting as being chased by velociraptors or being in a car chase and gun fight with a serial killer. The outcome is fantastic.
The final few pages when Denny calls the police and they arrive to the scene of the ‘crime’ are incredibly written and pulled on my heart-strings the way few stories have in a long time. It was gut-wrenching sadness and happiness at once; a strange combination. My chest was tight and I felt for Denny like a real person would feel for a neighbor or friend.
You may ask why a story such as this would make me feel so good? Because life is a struggle and not always a nice place, but we have to move through our darkest days to find better ones ahead. That is what Denny did in this story and against all odds found those brighter days on the other side of death. I want to tell everyone that reads to get a copy of this; I want to yell from a mountain top with a bull horn, it’s just that damn good!
recommended if you like:
Stephen King’ s The Body/ Stand by Me, Robert McCammons’s Boys Life, William Goldman’s Temple of Gold, James Newman’s Midnight Rain, and movies such as The Rivers Edge, Bottle Rocket, and Ghost World. Also a touch of them old classics; Tom Sawyer, Catcher in the Rye, and even Stephen King’s, Silver Bullet (movie).