(Unless your sweetie is, like me, a fan of creepy books. In that case, this might suit her/him better than the box of candy you had planned on.)
Is it a sin to treat people as if they are disposable? If you don’t think so at the beginning of this creeper of a novel, I guarantee that you will by the end. (You will also probably believe in ghosts.) (And never lock your dogs out of the room ever again.)
The main character of Heart Shaped Box, Judas Coyne, is a man who is hard to like – in a nearly unanimous, even-he-doesn’t-much-care-for-himself- type of way. And so, at first, when the titular heart-shaped box, filled with a dead man’s suit and pre-loaded with the vicious dead man’s curse – show’s up at his doorstep, you really have trouble being all that upset – or at least I did. I think the reader can be forgiven for not, at first, finding much sympathy in an aging rock-star who calls all his young, strung out girlfriends by their state of origin, rather than bothering to remember their names & treats his assistant with less care and more an absent-minded sort of disdain – as if he were just a piece of talking furniture, who sometimes made itself useful, but was otherwise un-noteworthy. Not exactly the hero you’re dying root for, straight off the bat, in other words.
But that’s how I know this is a good book – because somehow I had wound up caring about – and actively rooting for – a character whom I had not only disliked but was, in all honestly, at first kind of glad to see getting a taste of his own medicine. At first, the curse seemed – to both Jude and I – a reasonable type of vengeance to be paid for his sins. Somewhere along the way though, Hill made the character less ‘portrait of an evil man’, and more an actual human with flaws, and all of a sudden, I was on his side. Suddenly, I could see the cracks in the glorious and righteous vengeance theory behind the origins of the cursed man/box, because Hill allowed Jude to start seeing the cracks in it. To see that, although he was a far from perfect man, maybe there was more going on here than just some of his sins coming back on him.
It takes a pretty good writer to make you hate somebody, and still be able to make you care enough about him to follow him through the rest of the torturous journey. Especially when that journey is as ridiculously horrifying, gory and seemingly hopeless as Jude’s was, but Hill manages it deftly. It’s hard to say too much about the actual plot without spoiling it, but there’s plenty of supernatural stuff going on, and a hellish road trip, and a lot of people that you want to warn about getting too close to a cursed man, even though it’s probably already too late by the time they show up.
It’s not an easy read, or a quick one: It’s scary and gross and after I read it, I was happy to have lots of new picture books to review, just for their lightness and pretty colors. But if you like horror, and a high creepy factor, then this should be just the right fit for you.