A Good and Happy Child by Justin Evans
During one of my Barnes visits while on R&R, I saw this in one of the special sections (new fiction or recommendations, probably), and decided to give it a try since it sounded slightly different from everything else I had in my hand up to that point. It was described as a psychological thriller so I was kind of curious.
The story started out promising enough but began to drag about half way through. The frame for the main story is that a man who has recently become a father attends therapy because he is unable to touch his son and unsuprisingly enough, his inability to do his share with the child rearing is putting a bit of a strain on his marriage. He begins keeping a journal of his childhood experiences, which serves as the main narrative. As a child, he began seeing things shortly after his father's death. The question of course is whether demons are real and is he really possessed or is he using an imaginary friend figure to act out. His father's friends, who like his father, were intelligent but very religious want to perform an excorcism, while his mother wants nothing to do with that perspective and believes they are encouraging and endangering her son.
There never was an incredibly shocking moment in the book. After the inital build up, it just trailed off. The ending was ambiguous but not in a way that makes you think; instead it was just obnoxious that the author ended where he did. Either way, I wouldn't want to be George's family.
One thing that bugged me is that at one point, the religious crowd of the book discussed ancient, non-Christian religions, and suggested that "the demons snuck in" (187) and "set themselves up in the place of gods," actually mentioning Kali, the goddess of death, by name as a demon that possessed a girl. I'm not adverse to the idea per se, but if you're going to use that idea, couldn't you at least use religions that are defunct and no longer used rather than insulting a religion that still has about a billion followers? I mean, really, would it be that difficult to do a google search and find a different name? I mean, how many Greek gods are there? Tons. How many people still practice that religion? As far as I know, none.
Basically, it just wasn't quite scary enough with the demon, and even though it is slightly ambiguous, the narrator, who is somewhat unreliable, believes that demons exist the entire time. The psychology stuff just isn't described convincingly enough for there to be a question of whether or not the guy's crazy or possessed by demons - the book clearly is leaning more towards the demon idea. Although, George does seem to go off the deep end in the final scene (it seemed rather false compared to the rest of the novel), so I think by the end it's a bit of both.