Imagine your father is a monster. Would that mean there are monsters inside you, too?
Nineteen-year-old Ry Burke, his mother, and little sister scrape by for a living on their dying family farm. Ry wishes for anything to distract him from the grim memories of his father's physical and emotional abuse. Then a meteorite falls from the sky, bringing with it not only a fragment from another world but also the arrival of a ruthless man intent on destroying the entire family. Soon Ry is forced to defend himself by resurrecting a trio of imaginary childhood protectors: kindly Mr. Furrington, wise Jesus, and the bloodthirsty Scowler.
I really, really wanted to like Scowler. The audiobook won the Odyssey award so I thought I'd give it a shot. It's hard to sum up how I felt about Scowler because I can recognize that it did some really great stuff and dealt with very big and important questions but I didn't enjoy reading (or listening to) it.
The story follows Ry Burke and his family after a meteorite crashes on their farm. Through flashback, we learn that the family has been terrorized by patriarch Marvin Burke but that Marvin was incarcerated 9 years ago, leaving Ry, his mother, and younger sister Sarah to pick up the pieces and try to recover from the abuse they suffered. However, Marvin has escaped from prison and returned to the farm. As a child, Ry created three imaginary friends to help survive his experience with Marvin and now they're back, resurrected by both the presence of the meteorite and the menace Marvin presents.
It's a good, although complicated, plotline but the story is EXTREMELY dark and very violent. Some of the tortures Krause invents for Marvin to carry out are downright haunting. Thankfully, we don't get too gruesome of a depiction of these tortures, the tone is almost clinical and detached. Still, there is plenty to leave the listener cringing in imagined pain and sympathy. But the subject matter is still very difficult, there is very little light for any of these characters and the result is extremely bleak and depressing. (WARNING: This book may also serve as a trigger for those who have experienced emotional or physical abuse.)
The narrator, Kirby Heyborne, does an admirable job of representing all of the characters' voices, especially that of Ry's most horrible imaginary friend, Scowler. He builds suspense well without seeming cheesy or frantic. However, that didn't save the story for me.
If you're looking for a thought-provoking horror story with plenty of depth and symbolism, this is probably the audiobook for you. However, if you don't want to read something so heavy or are squeamish about violence, it might be best to give this one a pass.
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