Monday, March 7, 2016

The Singing Bone - Beth Hahn

My love of this book has surprised everyone around me, so I wouldn't be shocked if my readers are surprised by this one too. I have a weird fascination with crimes, especially those by cults and the growing "families" of like-minded people who believe in different philosophies than we consider the "norm." In this case, The Singing Bone is a unique look at a young character and the easy manipulation of getting her to join an older man and believe in his strange philosophies. Much like the terrifying stories of Charles Manson and his girls, The Singing Bone grabbed my attention despite the uncomfortable topic and held me until the very end.

Rating: 4 stars
Published: March 1, 2016
ARC received via Netgalley and Regan Arts.

The Singing Bone will sneak up on you; you won't realize how caught up you are in this story until you look up and see how much time has passed. Almost like the young boy Stuart, the reader watches the story of Alice and her friends as they become family to Jack Wyck, a convicted killer. The stories twist, pile on top of one another, switching between characters at will to give another perspective. From past to present we see the terrors of Mr. Wyck's home, we watch from the perspective of a documentary filmmaker, from the eyes of Alice a once 17 year old caught up in the romance, and from the eyes of Stuart the young brother of one of the girls. As a reader it's almost like you have ingested the drugs right alongside the characters, it's unsettling, it's disjointed, and it creeps into your mind and plants a seed.

I'm not sure any characters were made to be likable, even in 1999 as an adult Alice is odd, a professor of folklore, and unable to face her past. I instantly pictured her, I understood how her life had become folklore itself, how she couldn't separate realities from fantasies. Then there's Jack Wyck, Mr. Wyck, a character not unlike Charles Manson. Through drugs, sex, and companionship he offers four misguided youths a home, a place to get away, but also a place to conform them to his ways. He changes their views, brainwashes them, and uses them in his schemes. From lies to get money and random children's clothing, it is obvious that Mr. Wyck is a bad man. What Beth Hahn does well in her writing though, is allow you to feel like Alice and see how easy it was to get caught up. She watches from the fringe, taking it in but not involved. Her youth is different than the others, her brain and innocence a draw to Mr. Wyck, and when she does step in it seems things start to fall apart even more. I love that she never accepted it all, even though she was just as caught up in it as the others. It's just like we've all been told, there's seduction involved in the cult-following, it's romanticized to the point that the characters feel like this is okay.

I enjoyed The Singing Bone far more than I expected to. I actually avoided it at first, it didn't feel like I was in the mood to read it, but once I started I couldn't stop. I loved the investigative filmmaker, his outside perspective at the current Wyckian followers, at Alice and her untold truths, and at Jack Wyck himself. I enjoyed the tales, ever changing, and always sinister. While it is incredibly slow moving, I found myself searching for any moment in the day to pick it up, to find out what was next. I loved the development, the writing style, and how the story wraps itself in the end, just like a folklore tale.

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