And for F E Feeley Jr., Episode 255 – The State Of The Queer Union!
If I’m totally honest, I was avoiding this book at first. The cover was tempting. Show me a tornado and it’s usually a must-read, but I wasn’t sure of the premise. Demons, a religious backstory; in these times, I can’t cope with anything too weighty and dystopian. Real life is a bit too much like a disaster movie at the moment, and we can’t predict what the ending will be.
And yes, there are serious issues in this book, the state of the world today, war between states and countries, climate change, man’s inhumanity to man. There’s bleakness and horror which cannot be denied BUT:
Then I remembered When Heaven Strikes, another book with a tornado, written by F E Feeley Jr, and I remembered how I loved it, so I took the plunge. From the first moment, I felt for choir master, Joseph, who in the first part of the book (1991) had turned his back on his musical dreams to support his father on the family farm. He was torn about how he would ever be accepted in his hometown if he came out, and his relationship with his father is prickly. His church seem determined to see him paired off with the sister of the man Joseph secretly longs for. Oh, and Joseph also sees dead people. Some of them are quite persistent, but he is in denial about his talent, and hasn’t found a way to deal with it affectively.
So far, so earnest, but after some demonic activity, the story veers off in an unexpected direction, with hot and tender scenes which were a welcome respite from the encroaching menace. Then tragedy strikes, and the scene closes on 1991.
Skip forward to the present day, and Joseph is still working the farm. He’s given up on being a choir director and is literally treading water, unable to move on with his life.
I’m not going to spoil it for you, but Joseph is compelled to head off into the desert with a mysterious Creole woman, Francine, who says she is his distant cousin. Francine has a message from the past, warning Joseph he is being hunted by the demon who has haunted him for most of his life. As they search for answers, Joseph also has to deal with questioning his faith, and the constant company of a familiar ghost who he isn’t ready to let go of.
Okay, so that doesn’t sound a barrel of laughs, but trust me, this is an expertly woven tale, with likeable characters and a good dose of humour to balance the darker scenes and themes. Joseph is supported by equally compelling secondary characters who enrich the story and give it a colourful energy. I read the book over three nights and was totally hooked.
Can I address the Stephen King thing? To invite comparison is also to invite criticism. Forget King; this is something else. Something unique to these authors. I’m not saying it’s better than King, or worse. It’s totally different. Comparisons are impossible and pretty unfair, if I’m honest.
There’s a road trip, magic that is written in a way that you totally believe it, a respect for religion that I wasn’t expecting, a running theme based around Leonard Cohen’s masterful rendition of Hallelujah, and a powerful, satisfying denouement. The writing was excellent, the plotting off the scale. It was an imaginative, hugely enjoyable journey and I’m so glad I was given the opportunity to read it.
Whispering in the dark.
Secrets only the dark knows.
Joseph Moore, choir director for the First Baptist Church of Lenora, Nebraska, has secrets of his own. Terrible, lonely secrets. One that involves natural human desire. One that calls forth powers he cannot begin to understand. Both with the potential to destroy him and those he loves.
Now the world is changing. The darkness, the shadows, the ghosts, are closing in—and Joseph and his lover, Kevin, are being stalked by a merciless demon, hell-bent on possession.
Can you hear it now?
There in the dark.
It’s whispering your name.