I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Awakening by Brett McBean
Published by Bloodshot Books on July 26, 2016
Genres: Crime, Dark Fiction, Fiction, Horror, Occult & Supernatural, Psychological Horror, Supernatural, Zombies
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Welcome to the small Midwestern town of Belford, Ohio. It’s a quiet, friendly town. On one corner of Main Street you’ll find Barb’s Corner Store. Opposite you’ll see the town square, with its neatly trimmed lawn and statuesque gazebo. There’s everything you need here. There’s even a local bogeyman. You know the type: reclusive, looks a little strange. The person all the kids are afraid of. Every town has one. Except this one is stranger than most.
Meet Mr. Joseph. With his severely crooked neck and nasty facial scar, the old man from Haiti is the one resident all the kids whisper about and are scared to go near. But there are things about Mr. Joseph no one knows about. He has no heartbeat. No breath passes by his lips. And he has been dead for over ninety years.
It’s summer vacation and fourteen-year-old Toby Fairchild is looking forward to spending a lazy, carefree summer playing basketball, staying up late watching monster movies, and camping out in his backyard with his best friend, Frankie.
But then tragedy strikes. And out of this tragedy an unlikely friendship develops between Toby and the strange old man across the street, Mr. Joseph. Over the course of a tumultuous summer, Toby will be faced with pain and death, the excitement of his first love, and the underlying racism of the townsfolk, all while learning about the value of freedom at the hands of a kind but cursed old man.
Every town has a dark side. And in Belford, the local bogeyman has a story to tell.
THE AWAKENING, by Brett McBean, is an intensely evocative novel that falls into several sub-categories of the horror genre: psychological, supernatural/paranormal, “real” human horror, and revenge. However, the theme that stands out the most in my mind is the coming-of-age of one of our main characters, Toby Fairchild. This story belongs in the ranks of Robert McCammon’s BOY’S LIFE, and James Newman’s MIDNIGHT RAIN, in my humble opinion. McBean takes us on a journey with these characters that changes them from innocent, trusting kids into pre-adults that are forced to confront the myriad forms of evil around them.
We have the quaint town of Belford, Ohio–complete with its own local “boogieman”, Jack Joseph, that the children all fear and the older ones torment. Yet then we get to see the truth behind Mr. Joseph’s unnatural existence. Though in form he may be considered a “monster”, his heart is still gentle and his thoughts more pure than most people in that town.
“. . . the old man still thought of children as the true miracles of this world. Their smiling faces and songs of laughter held only trust and purity and freedom.”
McBean does a phenomenal job of building his characters and ratcheting up the tension and the fear that later begins to consume so many. Bloodshed and unfounded allegations combine with bigotry and intolerance to create an atmosphere so lifelike that I felt I was looking at a “real” town, instead of reading mere words on a page.
“. . . what scared him most about the whole . . . situation wasn’t the threat of violence . . . it was fear of the unknown.”
These characters–particularly Toby and Mr. Joseph–emerge from this novel having grown so much, emotionally and mentally, from the horrors of the past and present. Even the inclusion of a supernatural presence, Haitian gods or “loa”, and a man who walks although his heart stopped beating many years before, can not overtake the psychological aspect of what horrors and decisions Toby is forced to endure and contemplate. My only slight criticism is that I wish the main “villain” wasn’t so obvious from the onset, even though their role was not the “heart” of the novel.
A boy will learn and live with many of the unfortunate attitudes of society, from pure evil to racism and unwarranted hatred. McBean has given us a novel with so many distinct layers that by the time you’ve peeled them away one by one, you won’t be able to stop thinking about them, yourself.
“. . . Some experiences brought people closer together; others caused a rift that was beyond repair . . . “
Not all truths are easy and pleasant to learn. . .