Special Delivery: My Review of Heart Shaped Box

Oh, hangovers…

They are the worst!

You have fun, you party hard and life is good!

Until you wake up, and can’t piece together your night, and find out later that you had some wild shenanigans with your friends and maybe even got married the previous night…

Hangover 1

Well, maybe its not quite that bad, but they are no fun.  No fun at all.

Yeah, nothing like reading an awesome book series, going crazy and having all kinds of fun…

Until you are done reading those books.  And then the payback…oh, the payback…

Yes, I am referencing a book hangover.  I have had my share of the other kind of hangover, but given that this blog is devoted to all things nerdy, I thought I would acknowledge book hangovers…after all, the struggle is real!

If you have been following this blog at all over the past 6 months or so (and I truly thank both  all of my devoted fans), you would know that I just finished reading all eight (all eight!) Dark Tower books.  I read the revised edition of The Gunslinger!  I even read The Wind Through the Keyhole!

And this series is epic…it was penned by The Master, after all!

Stephen King mit Katze "Clovis", tierischer Held des Films "Schlafwandler". Der Meister des Horrors wird am Sonntag (21.09.1997) 50 Jahre. Mit 50 hat er mehr als 30 Romane veröffentlicht, ein Sachbuch, fünf Geschichtensammlungen und neun Drehbücher. dpa (zu dpa-Korr vom 17.09.1997) nur s/w

But so much epic-ness has a consequence.  And the past six months were an epic party:  I felt invincible.  I chugged shots  books like no one’s business.  And I am sure if there was a literary equivalent of a keg stand, I did that too.

But all good things must come to an end, and that includes my read and review of The Dark Tower series.  And I have been nursing that hangover for a couple of weeks now.  Like in my younger partying days, I have been averse to light and noise.  And just looking at food  books has made me feel pretty nauseous…

So I needed a cure.  The literary equivalent of a comfy couch, gallons of Gatorade and a carb filled breakfast to settle my insides…what was a nerd to do?

Well, after much searching (actually not that much searching), I found my cure…

No, not the hair of the dog that bit me!

Cujo

A much better cure.  A cure that offers a long term solution:

Joe Hill 1

No, I did not wear a pair of Horns on my head!

I am talking about the man behind the horns himself…

None other than Joe Hill!

As most people know, Joe Hill is the son of Stephen King.  And he writes scary stories.  And he has a wicked sense of humor.  A regular chip off the old block, in other words.

But the comparisons end there.  Make no mistake, Stephen King is Stephen King (and I don’t want it any other way).  And Joe Hill is Joe Hill.  I don’t want that any other way, either.  He can write a scary story like Dad, and sculpt interesting characters that the readers become invested in (again, just like Dad).

Again, make no mistake about it:  Joe Hill may have some similarities to his old man (and his stories may also link with Dad’s and could be considered a part of Dad’s universe), but his style is all his own.

And I love it.  Its refreshing.  Kind of like the literary equivalent of a comfy couch, gallons of Gatorade and a carb filled breakfast to settle your insides…

In other words, I found the perfect (literary) hangover cure: Joe Hill.  And reading his work is much better than trying to ingest some of the hair of the dog that bit me!

So, I chose the book Heart Shaped Box to help ease my hangover.  And it was perfect:  scary, great characters and great setting.  In other words, just what I needed to ease the pain, and make me a little less grouchy.

And without further ado, here is my review of my hangover cure, aka the book Heart Shaped Box!

HSB 2


 

Synopsis

The book begins with an introduction to a man named Judas Coyne.  We learn that Judas is a musician for a heavy metal band who has been moderately successful.  We also learn that Judas has a penchant for collecting macabre souvenirs:  a snuff film, a piece of artwork from a serial killer, and a few other unusual items.

One of these items is a ghost.  Jude receives an email offering the ghost of a man who has recently died for sale, and promptly pays the $1000 asking price.  The “ghost” arrives at Judas’ home a few days later, and is actually a suit that was owned by the dead man, Craddock McDermott.

Almost immediately, Judas begins to notice odd occurrences that coincide with the arrive of his “ghost.”  His girlfriend Georgia (whose real name is Marybeth), pricks her finger on one of the pins that holds the suit together, and her finger becomes infected.  Judas’ dogs, Bon and Angus, become aggressive in the presence of the suit.  Judas begins to have odd dreams.  And worst of all, Judas begins to see an apparition of what can only be the dead man, whose eyes resemble squiggly lines.  The ghost also carries a razor on a silver chain and brandishes it as a weapon.  This causes his girlfriend Georgia to recall an incident from her childhood, when she also encountered a ghost: Georgia glanced out the window of her grandmother’s house, and saw what appeared to be a little girl, who also had eyes that looked like black squiggly lines.  Georgia later finds out that this is the ghost of her grandmother’s sister, who disappeared as a child and was never found.  Judas becomes frightened, as he realizes that he is actually being haunted and that this ghost does not have good intentions.

Judas makes a phone call to Jessica, the woman who sold him the suit.  He then finds out that Jessica is actually the sister to one of his former girlfriends, Florida (whose name is really Anna).  Jessica tells Judas that Anna committed suicide, and blames Jude’s breakup with her for Anna’s death.  The “ghost” is actually the girls’ stepfather Craddock McDermott, and Jessica reminds Jude that he has paid for the ghost of the old man, and will forever be cursed.

The odd occurrences continue.  Judas’ assistant Danny realizes that ghost intends to kill everyone associated with Jude, and resigns from his position immediately.  Judas later receives an odd late night phone call from Danny, who has actually committed suicide.  Judas falls asleep in one of his vehicles, and nearly dies from carbon monoxide poisoning.  The ghost continues to torment Judas, even after Georgia burns the suit.  Judas sees an old pick up truck that belongs to the dead man.  The ghost continues to taunt Judas, flashing the razors that Anna used to commit suicide.  Georgia becomes frightened, and encourages Jude to leave town with her.

Judas has a final confrontation at his home with the ghost, but is saved by the intervention of his dogs.  He theorizes that dogs can act as familiars and are therefore able to fight the ghost.  Judas leaves his home with Georgia and the dogs, and heads to Louisiana to confront Jessica.  Georgia insists that they stop and visit her grandmother, and also tells Judas that they may need to raise the spirit of Anna to fight the ghost of Craddock McDermott.

The next morning, Jude awakens in the hotel room with a particular tune in his head that he plays on his guitar.  Jude notices that the ghost is not present when he is playing the tune on his guitar.  However, the ghost reminds Jude and Georgia of its presence when they venture out of the hotel room, without the dogs or the mysterious tune.  Georgia nearly commits suicide per the suggestion of the ghost of Craddock McDermott.  Jude and Georgia then hightail it to Georgia’s grandmother’s house.

Jude and Georgia arrive at Georgia’s grandmother’s house, and use Georgia’s old Ouija board to summon the spirit of Anna McDermott.  They are successful, and receive a plea from Anna to stop the ghost of her stepfather.  Later on Jude sees the ghost of Georgia’s grandmother’s dead sister, and actually speaks to her, telling her to to not leave with her kidnappers.  Georgia’s grandmother tells Jude that this may put the spirit to rest, as someone has shown some concern about her fate and attempted to speak to her.  Despite the pleas from her grandmother, Georgia and Jude continue on their journey.

Before he leaves Georgia’s hometown, Jude stops at a local used car lot, and confronts the man who molested Georgia as a teenager.  Jude punches the man in the face, and takes one of his loafers as a souvenir, so that Georgia may have some closure.

Judas and Georgia then confront Jessica at her house.  Jude tells Jessica that Anna did not kill herself, but was rather hypnotized by her stepfather, who actually cut her wrists.  Jessica and Anna had both been abused by their stepfather, and McDermott continued the abuse with Jessica’s daughter.  Anna had threatened to go to the police and press charges, and her death was an attempt to keep her quiet.  A bloody fight then ensues at the house, and McDermott’s ghost returns and turns Jessica’s daughter Reese against Georgia and Jude.  Reese is able to shoot Jude with a gun, which results in the loss of Jude’s finger.  Reese also shoots Jude’s dog Bon and mortally wounds her.  Georgia and Jude escape, but barely.

Once Georgia and Jude escape to their vehicle, Judas has a vision where he witnesses the final confrontation between Anna, Jessica and their stepfather.  Anna does indeed threaten legal action, and Jessica and McDermott blame her changed behavior on Jude, and cover up Anna’s death with a staged suicide.  Jude awakens from his trance, and the ghost of Craddock McDermott speaks to him on the radio, again telling Jude that this confrontation will result in his death.

Judas and Georgia then reach their destination:  Jude’s childhood home.  However, Jude’s other dog, Angus, passes away on the journey, leaving Jude with no protection from the ghost.

The ghost returns to Jude while Jude tries to recuperate from his injury.  The ghost possesses the body of Jude’s dying father.  Georgia has a show down with Craddock McDermott, and shoots Jude’s father, killing him.  The ghost vacates the dead body, but Georgia is able to channel the spirit of Anna, who calls Craddock McDermott back to the afterlife and away from the corporate world.  However, this causes Georgia to become trapped in the afterlife.

Jude is able to bring Marybeth back from the afterlife, and the two spend some time in the hospital recovering.  Georgia and Jude return to New York and eventually get married and adopt new dogs.  Jessica is arrested by local authorities for abusing her daughter and faces a lengthy prison sentence.  Several years later, Jessica’s daughter Reese hitchhikes to New York and visits Jude and Georgia, thanking them for their actions.  The couple sends Reese on her way, giving her money and a ride so that she may build a better life for herself.


 

My Thoughts

I will not compare Joe Hill to his dad.

I will not compare Joe Hill to his dad.

I will not compare Joe Hill to his dad.

I will not compare Joe Hill to his dad.

I will not compare Joe Hill to his dad.

I will not compare Joe Hill to his dad.

I will not compare Joe Hill to his dad.

I will not compare Joe Hill to his dad.

I will not compare Joe Hill to his dad.

I will not compare Joe Hill to his dad.

I will not compare Joe Hill to his dad.

I will not…

Oh, wait…ah, screw it, I’m human and the comparison is inevitable, dammit!

Simpsons SK

But although I may compare Joe Hill to Dad (a lot, hey I am human, at least the doctors tell me that…haha), I still want to emphasize that Joe Hill is Joe Hill…

And like Dad (damn comparisons), there is so much to love about Joe Hill…

One thing I love about a Joe Hill is that he is close to my age (six years OLDER than me, in case you cared).  So many of his references are…well…recognizable.  In other words, I don’t have to turn to Google (much) to get them…

Even the title of this book:

Kurt Cobain 1

Yep, it seems the title of his book is a tribute to the guy above.  Someone who colored much of my adolescence (and Joe Hill’s too, I am sure), and who still continues to influence my generation (and beyond to this day).

And there is the character of Jude himself…

And how can Jude NOT be a tribute to this guy:

HOLLYWOOD, CA - AUGUST 01: TV Personality Ozzy Osbourne arrives at the premiere of Columbia Pictures' "Total Recall" held at Grauman's Chinese Theatre on August 1, 2012 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Maybe we have a Twinner, ladies and gentleman!  Jude biting the head off of a bat does not actually seem that far fetched, if you think about it…

Oh, boy…and speaking of Jude…

Judas Coyne 1

Judas Coyne has to be one of the most complex characters in any book I have ever read…

In fact, he may even rival our friendly neighborhood gunslinger!

Roland 14

When I read this book, I am just not sure what to do with Judas.  Sometimes, I just want to Tombstone him (although he would probably enjoy that, and that would actually be kind of fitting)!  But then he beats the living shit out of the man who molested his girlfriend as a child…

Jude takes Georgia’s (Marybeth’s) word for it, and hunts the man down.  And pummels him.  Hard.  Really hard.  And then I just wanted to give him a big old kiss, tongue and all.  Won’t the first time a literary character has gotten me hot.  Nor the last…

And speaking of sexual abuse:  I spent the first half or so of this book being petrified…

I mean, there was a guy with squiggly marks for eyes and a silver razor for a weapon who kept appearing and wouldn’t go away (well, except he hated dogs and haunting guitar melodies, apparently).  And the fact that Jude owned him because he paid for him (really, we need more disclaimers on these online purchases):  shudder.  Burning the suit didn’t stop, he just hopped into his ghastly truck and continued his campaign of terrorism that way.  He even had the power to give poor Marybeth (Georgia) a nasty infection on finger…eek!

But the second half of the book was different.  I was no longer scared.  Not scared at all.  Instead, I got pissed.  Righteously pissed, in fact!

As Hill began to reveal more about what was really going on, i.e. the abuse suffered by poor Anna, Georgia’s molestation and even the abuse suffered by Jude, who had to make adjustments so that he could continue playing guitar, the ghost with the squiggly eyes took a backseat.  My fear was replaced with anger:  how can people you are supposed to trust (parents, your friends’ parents, etc) be so…well…shitty?  What on earth is wrong with people?  How can you abuse your own stepdaughter, and then treat her in such a condescending manner when she (understandably) sinks into to depression?  How can you, when you were abused by your stepfather, along with your sister, allow your stepfather to do the same to YOUR daughter?

In other words, Heart Shaped Box is something beyond a ghost story.   This is not to diminish the ghost story, which is creepy and terrifying in its own right.  But there is so much more to this story than ghosts with icky looking eyes. It is a story of abuse, obviously.  Nearly every single character, including Judas, was a victim of abuse at some point.  And the effects of that abuse were felt for a long, long time (including the effects on Jude, whose father’s abuse took quite the toll on him and likely affected his adult life, such as his decision to not have children, his divorce, etc).

Heart Shaped Box also deals with betrayal.  Nearly every single character has been betrayed by some he/she was supposed to trust, or betrayed someone who trusted him/her.  Jude was betrayed by his father, who abused him, and his mother, who did not protect him from the abuse.  Georgia was molested by a family friend.  Anna was abused her stepfather, and Reese was abused by the same man.  Both women were also sold out by Jessica, the sister and mother who should have protected them.  Jude also does his share of betraying:  he turns Anna away when she needs him most, sending her back to the hornets nest, which ultimately leads to her death.  And Jude nearly betrays Georgia, as he puts her life at risk in order to defeat the ghost of Craddock McDermott.

However, Heart Shaped Box is also a book about redemption.  The characters may have suffered abuse and betrayal, but many are able to obtain redemption.  Georgia is able to confront her abuser and obtain some closure, which allows Anna to help her and Jude from beyond the grave.  Jude is also able to obtain redemption, as he is able to save Georgia, unlike Anna.  Jude also obtains redemption because he and Georgia are able to turn Reese’s situation around for her, so she does not suffer the same fate as her aunt.  Even Anna obtains redemption.  Although she is dead, she is still able to defeat her stepfather and save her niece from her stepfather’s evil influence.  And Reese is perhaps the most redeemed character of all:  she is able to escape from her family and finally begin to build a normal, happy life.


Well, I am starting to feel a little better…

The literary hangover is slowly dissipating…

Turns out a bit of the old Joe Hill was just what I needed…

So thank you Joe Hill.  Whether I am hung over, or have been stone cold sober for days on end, you are just what the doctor ordered!

Joe Hill 2

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “Special Delivery: My Review of Heart Shaped Box

  1. Pingback: EL TRAJE DEL MUERTO | Penumbria

  2. Kiva oli nähdä porkkanoinnissa! Tuosta kauppaketjuideasta: tätä pohdittiin jossain Poaasanrmkfialaikten tapaamisessa ja ajateltiin, että se todellakin voisi olla tulevaisuudessa mahdollista. Nyt saatiin näytetyksi, että homma toimii ja ajan kanssa (kauppaketjujen kanssa neuvotteluihin menisi varmasti viikkoja, jos ei kuukausia…) voitaisiin tehdä valtakunnallinen tempaus. Katsotaan, kuinka käy, mutta kuten kirjoitit, niin idea olisi tosi hyvä! Muutoihan noita kauppoja on vaikea kilpailuttaa, kun yksittäiset liikkeet eivät oikein voi tehdä mitään.

    Like

  3. Bravo! Je suis fier de cette belle entreprise de chez nous. Je salue par le fait même l’influence positive et intègre que vos gens ont sur l&tu127;ind8s#rie.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s