Books · Horror

Review: Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill…

…and my relationship with the horror genre.
I chose this for my R.I.P. read for a lark. I don’t read a lot of horror; I do venture into dark fantasy, paranormal romance, and urban fantasy with vampires and demons, etc. I love Edgar Allen Poe and when I was a kid I enjoyed Dracula and Frankenstein, but those are shelved in “Literature” now. Of course, I’m not saying that that doesn’t make them horror novels. It’s just that… I rarely read books that are actually shelved in the “horror” section of my bookstore.
I’ve read a total of one book by Stephen King (It), and a total of three books by one of my favourite writers, Poppy Z. Brite (Lost Souls, Drawing Blood, Exquisite Corpse). Oh, yeah, and I had an Anne Rice obsession in high school, but like with Poppy Z. Brite, I’ve only read three of her vampire chronicles books – The Vampire Lestat, Queen of the Damned and Tale of the Body Thief). I read them repeatedly, but those were the only ones I’ve read. I never got Interview With the Vampire because the nearest MPH (where I book-shopped before Kino) was always out of stock, and by the time I got to Tale of the Body Thief I was so disappointed (Queen of the Damned was the best book among the three, so reading Tale of the Body Thief after it was kind of a let-down) that I didn’t bother, and just re-read Queen of the Damned instead. It was always at the back of my mind, this thought that I want to read more Brite, I want to read more King. Actually, thinking back, I also want to read more Anne Rice. Because I loved what I’ve read. I really do. It’s just that I don’t think I would love anything else Poppy Z. Brite wrote more than I loved Drawing Blood, and Stephen King always takes a backseat next to other authors in my TBR list.
Enter Joe Hill. I started it for a lark; I wanted at least one book in my R.I.P. pool to be from the horror shelf, and the synopsis was interesting, and I liked the reviews I’ve read of it so far. When I opened to the first page, I was only half-serious, thinking, “okay, let’s see what this is all about” – but three pages in, I was absolutely absorbed. It was really intense, but at some parts it was funny, which I loved. It was creepy and it was spooky and it was disturbing, and not all of it was because of the horror element, the ghost that the main character purchased. What started as the minor plot turned out to be part of the major one, and it seems like the really scary parts were the ones that were the real-life horrors of the characters, and not the ones that was brought on by the ghost. Because Heart-Shaped Box was not only a story about a couple haunted by a (seriously creepy, psycho) ghost, but also about the metaphorical ghosts that have already haunted them their entire lives. It’s a story about child abuse, domestic violence, rape, incest – the horrors that actually exists now, that are still being inflicted on people today. In a way I think it’s fitting that Jude and Marybeth fighting the ghost is like confronting the personal demons that haunt them, that without first being able to face their past without shame or fear, they probably wouldn’t have got very far in the story. It reminds me somewhat of Drawing Blood in that sense
Would I recommend this book to others? Yes, definitely. And I’m going to get Joe Hill’s 20th Century Ghosts too, as soon as it’s out in paperback!
~ originally posted on blogspot

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