Book Reviews

{Review} The Secret Life of Souls by Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee

The Secret Life of Souls by Jack Ketchum, Lucky McKee
Published by Pegasus Books on 11.8.136
Genres: Dark Fiction, Horror, Contemporary
Pages: 240
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At the heart of this psychological suspense novel is the haunting depiction of a family’s fall and the extraordinary gifted dog, Caity, who knows the truth. As the drama unfolds Caity evolves from protector to savior, from scapegoat to prop, and eventually, from avenger to survivor. She is an unselfish soul in a selfish world—and she is written with depth and grace by authors Ketchum and Mckee, who display a profound understanding of a dog’s complex emotions. With her telling instincts and her capacity for joy and transformative love, Caity joins the pantheon of great dogs in contemporary literature.
Eleven year old actress Delia Cross is beautiful, talented, charismatic. A true a star in the making. Her days are a blur of hard work on ­set, auditions and tutors. Her family—driven, pill­-popping stage mother Pat, wastrel dad Bart, and introverted twin brother Robbie—depends on her for their upscale lifestyle. Delia in turn depends on Caity, her beloved ginger Queensland Heeler—and loyal friend—for the calming private space they share. Delia is on the verge of a professional break through. But just as the contracts are about to be signed, there is a freak accident that puts Delia in the danger zone with only Caity to protect her.

What an incredible read!

I’ve loved the work of Jack Ketchum ever since I read his book The Girl Next Door. In The Secret Life of Souls Jack teams up once again with Lucky McKee and together, they knock this one right out of the park.

The Cross family is as dysfunctional as they come. Pat and Bart, (mom and dad), are busy trying to make their daughter Delia a star and her brother Robbie is mostly ignored. The family dog Caity more or less belongs to Delia alone, and it doesn’t take long for the reader to discover that Delia and Caity have a special connection. Caity lives to serve the Cross family, but other than Delia and Robbie, they don’t deserve this loyal dog. I’m going to leave off the plot here because this story should be absorbed as the authors intended, not interpreted by a lowly blogger like me.

This book is fast paced and well written. These authors know how to pull on your heart strings and they are not afraid to do so. The characters of the Cross family are so well developed but the more you get to know them-well, you’ll see. The dog, though? The dog is the star of this show, and with portions of the story from Caity’s point of view, it is no mystery how she’s feeling. Many times I found myself wishing I could reach out and pet Caity and call her a good girl. (Who’s a good girl, Caity? You are!)

I’m not sure this is a horror story, though parts of it are certainly horrific. What it is for sure though, is a fantastic novel that takes the reader through the full spectrum of emotions: from full blown happiness to acute sadness and all the stops in between. This may even be my favorite book of the year so far. The more I turn it over in my mind, the more sure I am that it will be.

Highly recommended for everyone, but most especially to dog lovers. I think you’ll adore The Secret Life of Souls.

*Thanks to Net Galley and Pegasus Books for the free e-arc of this book in exchange for my honest review. This is it.*

Char

 

About Jack Ketchum

Jack Ketchum “is on a par with Clive Barker (Hellraiser), James Ellroy (L.A. Confidential) and Thomas Harris (The Silence of The Lambs),” and that “the only novelist working today that is writing more important fiction is Cormack McCarthy (No Country for Old Men, The Road). – Stephen King

Jack Ketchum is the pseudonym for novelist Dallas Mayr. He was born in Livingston, New Jersey in 1946. A onetime actor, teacher, and lumber salesman, Ketchum credits his childhood love of Elvis Presley, dinosaurs, and horror for getting him through his formative years. As a teenager, was befriended by Robert Bloch, author of “Psycho” who became a mentor to him. He supported Ketchum’s work just as his work was supported by his own mentor, H.P. Lovecraft. This relationship with Bloch lasted until his death in 1994.

A pivotal point in Jack Ketchum’s career came while he was working for the Scott Meredith Literary Agency. He met Henry Miller and assisted him as his agent until shortly before his death in 1980. His extraordinary encounter with Miller at his home in Pacific Palisades is one of the subjects of his memoir in “Book of Souls”.

In 1980, Jack Ketchum published his first novel “Off Season”. Stephen King said in his acceptance speech at the 2003 National Book Awards that “Off Season set off a furor in my supposed field, that of horror, that was unequaled until the advent of Clive Barker. It is not too much to say that these two gentlemen remade the face of American popular fiction.” Ketchum has received continued praise by King throughout their friendship.

Ketchum’s work is largely based upon true events. The Girl Next Door , for example, was inspired by the 1965 murder of the young Sylvia Likens. In the special edition of the novel, King, who volunteered to write the preface, wrote one of the longest introductions of his career. He later went on to say that the movie adaptation of the book was “the first authentically shocking American film I’ve seen since Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer over 20 years ago. If you are easily disturbed, you should not watch this movie. If, on the other hand, you are prepared for a long look into hell, suburban style, The Girl Next Door will not disappoint. This is the dark-side-of-the-moon version of Stand By Me.”

He has received numerous Bram Stoker Awards for works such as “The Box”, “Closing Time”, and “Peaceable Kingdom”. As his books gained in worldwide popularity, they also began to be adapted into feature films, the first of which was “Jack Ketchum’s The Lost” which went on to be a cult success, followed by the highly controversial second film “The Girl Next Door”. However, the main launch for Jack Ketchum into international commercial and critical success was the long-awaited release by Magnolia Pictures of the film Red, based on his novel, starring Brian Cox (The Bourne Supremacy) and Tom Sizemore (Saving Private Ryan). After favorable reviews at The Sundance Film Festival, the movie made a critical showing in the United States and enjoyed relative success internationally with subsequent translations of the novel.

The author enjoyed more international succes with the publication and film version of “The Woman” co-written and directed by Lucky McKee in which the New York Times said “in this lean adaptation of a novel by Jack Ketchum and himself, maintains an artfully calibrated pace, investing a powerful parable with an abundance of closely observed details. Like David Cronenberg and Roman Polanski, Mr. McKee is a master at drawing suspense from pregnant silences.”

Jack Ketchum continues his rise with the present showing of “The Woman” at the Sundance Film Festival 2011 co-written by Ketchum with director Lucky McKee. The novel is to be released this year.

Kethcum lives in New York City where he continues to write, articles, reviews, short stories, novels and screenplays.

About Lucky McKee

Edward Lucky McKee is an American director, writer, and actor, largely known for the cult 2002 film May.

I have an incurable book addiction and I'm not ashamed to admit it. I will buy a book based on its cover alone. I love promoting authors. I am... the Ultimate Reader.

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