Book Title: The Waiting (Standalone)
Author: Joe Hart
Number of pages: 254
Evan Tormer is haunted.
His life has been shattered by events beyond his control and regret is his constant companion. His wife is gone, lost to an unbeatable cancer. His son has been mentally and physically handicapped by a tragic accident. He’s been fired for using company funds in a failed attempt to save his wife’s life.
On a whim, Evan accepts an invitation to housesit on a picturesque island in northern Minnesota. At first it seems like the perfect second chance for he and his son to recover and rebuild their life together.
But there is something very, very wrong with the house and all that occupies it. And worst of all, Evan doesn’t know if the house is haunted…
…Or if it’s all in his mind.
(re: Goodreads @ The Waiting by Joe Hart)
Should this book be picked up? the tl;dr spoiler-less review:
- There is emotionally-charged depth in character development.
- Narrative is layered and is more than your typical horror thrill ride.
- Inclusion of gimmicks that remind you of why you’re scared of them in the first place. Well played, sir.
- A certain modern realism in plotting – if you own, want to own, or can imagine a cottage…read this.
Classified as a (supernatural) horror-ghost thriller? Alright, you can do this; you’ve seen stuff like this before. No problem. Cue the curtain call: creepy basement, a doll that stares back at you, hallucinations and night terrors, the ticking of a clock; a few of many chills that encapsulate this narrative. And for someone who doesn’t normally read horror novels, I might need more.
Disclaimer: Potential spoilers inherent to this review from here onward.
[“What terrible karmic atrocity had he committed that made the universe glance his family’s way and shake its head? In response, he heard the same answer he received each time he asked the question, spoken by the voice he hated inside his own mind. Because this is your life, this is what it is.”]
The narrative is wonderfully crafted with purposeful and precise layering between its pacing and voicing. The story follows Evan Tormer, a widower trying to keep himself and his son (Shaun) afloat despite life continually handing him the shit-end of the proverbial stick. The emotions and experiences exhibited by Evan is real, easily pulling me into his life. He’s not someone who made it through the other (better) side and has everything figured out; frankly, he’s far from it. And as the seemingly cabin-fever plot progresses, the path to getting his family to a better place becomes hazy. Because what are you to do in an isolated faux-paradise with only your mind to fill the void?
[“How could you venture into the unknown, no guide or map save the one you drew for yourself? He needed a solid groundwork laid out before typing the first word; anything else felt foolish and immaterial.”]
There is a sense of contemporary realism in the small cottage town that hosts this narrative. It’s superficially majestic and quaint but also encompasses historical issues which implicate outsiders from looking in. And that’s to be expected in a town of less than seven-hundred. The environment itself is adequately described; not overbearing with finesse detailing, but enough to allow the re-imagination of generic abodes that readers only need reminding of. Case-in-point, nothing is being reinvented as the setting is familiar, mentally tangible, and thought-provokingly relevant to readers (especially if you own a cottage).
By being disconnected from the immediate world (to a certain extent), the only real companionship he has is with his mind; the vessel for both pleasure-and-pain seeking thoughts. It was especially fascinating to read into how he rationalised and interpreted thoughts as they occurred; depicting the anxiety and mentally taxing extent of isolation. As events unfold through Evan’s perspective, the character development is actually really stellar. He’s fleshed out in a way that gives notice to the narrative pacing; where experiences on face-value are vividly brought to life with ease. Between the empathizing moments with Shaun, his mental stress and instability (re: cabin-fever), and the suspense and goose bump-inducing thrills of venturing into the unknown, Evan is raw, honest, and a believable father figure (and character) that I certainly cared and rooted for.
[“He whiled away the time in silence, with only a lilting song of insanity playing on an endless loop in his mind. He’d heard once that crazy people didn’t wonder if they were crazy; they just went along with it.”]
There are hidden intricacies in wording that may as well foreshadow existing and future events. Whether intentional or not, these enunciation’s and/or meanings are interwoven and often downplayed due to Shaun’s mentally challenged stature. So as much as Shaun’s quips are analysed through Evan, there are other (non-Shaun) facts that become overlooked. Again, I could be just reading too much into it but having “Tormer” as a last name and bringing yourself to an island nicknamed the “Fin” questions the purpose of use. From one angle, his name implicated the continual torment he endured while living on Fin Island through hallucinations that got progressively worst. Alternatively, Fin can be associated with a posh way of saying the end. Whether or not the island is the means to an end for the inhabitants is open-ended – because everyone dies eventually. It’s all semantics, really.
As I mentioned previously, the narrative is wonderfully layered to encompass more than just a cabin-in-the-woods spook-filled horror. (This is in reference to imagery only, not to the movie which I actually enjoyed a lot.) This book certainly has the necessary tools to make the hairs on your neck stand up – I’m sure of that much. Sure there are gimmicks (dolls, unusual night terrors, creeping basement darkness, etc.) that build into the hype of suspense that the norm would distinguish as a scare factor. But what I found in the spin Hart takes with this novel is quite compelling to challenge the deeper meaning of horror antics in novelization. It wasn’t by any means contrived; it was refreshing despite being emotionally charged.
[He’d sat there, petrified on the toilet, frozen in the cold darkness of a place that held no malice in the light, but without it, became something else.]
Full disclosure. Annnnnnnd it might be just me in the category of readers with inadequate comprehension but I honestly had to double take the last few chapters to fully grasp it. I think I was just lost between the sudden happenings considering it was the climatic ending.
However, from an overall standpoint let me first say: Joe Hart gets bonus points for his name – just giving props where props deserved. Otherwise, I enjoyed this read quite some bit considering I don’t really read into horror/thrillers that often. There was a good amount of literal “wtf?” moments and plot twists that had me reeling in enjoyment regardless of how chilling it was. This man may have changed my perspective of this genre. So, thanks a bunch for future scares…I guess.
[“The how is fine, I can relate to that, understand it,” Evan said, after a while. “The how is measurable, calculable, it’s numbers and math. It’s the why …” His hand bunched into a fist and shook at his side. “The why is what gets me. It’s what makes me dream at night and wonder during the day. It never makes sense, and what really pisses me off is, there is no answer to that one.” He spun, seeing and not seeing her. “That’s the biggest joke there is, and it doesn’t have a punch line.”]
//review rant over.
Despite being a short read, this is one step in the right direction for me in expanding my library! Although I suspect my next read is sci-fi. Oops.
Additionally, the New Year also means the start of existing and new prime time shows! Huzzah. This will be elaborated further on the upcoming Top Ten Tuesday (posted on Jan 14/14 to be exact).