Heart-Shaped Box

This month’s library staff book discussed surprised me.  Our genre of the month was horror which does not seem on the surface to be my staff’s favorite type of literature to read.  We also do not see a lot of customers reading horror outside of the bestseller types like Stephen King.heart-shaped box

Speaking of Mr. King, the title we selected this month was a book by his progeny, Joseph Hillstrom King, or as he is known professionally, Joe Hill.  The title we selected was Joe Hill’s first novel, Heart-Shaped Box (2007).  Whenever a discussion of this author comes up, it has to deal with the issue of primogeniture.  After all, Joe Hill could have written space opera or even a bildungsroman that dished on his family.

I can testify that he did write a horror novel.  The basic idea behind Heart-Shaped Box is that aging (54) rocker Judas Coyne gets talked into buying a ghost from the Internet.  Darned if the goods aren’t delivered.

What made this novel work for me, and our staff, was manifold.  It is a scary story, full of the revulsion that makes horror fiction so attractive.  But it also has a complicated lead character with bad boy tendencies and, perhaps–a heart of gold?  As Leonard Cohen sang, “There is a crack, a crack in everything.  That’s how the light gets in.”

The added bonus to this book is that we get another “cracked” character in Marybeth “Georgia” Kimble who has latched onto Jude and will not let go.  Even more than the haunting by the evil Craddock James McDermott (who is really creepy), the relationship between Jude and Georgia drives the book.  Well developed minor characters are bounced off of by these two in both the past and the present, turning a genre scare into a theme oriented character study.

We discussed but we also liked.  Most of us were surprised by that.  We learned once again that the worst thing to do in reader’s advisory is make judgments.




About the Author:

Gary Niebuhr is the author of Make Mine a Mystery (2003), Caught up in Crime (2009), and other readers' guides to mystery and detective fiction. He was a Booklist contributor from 2008-2014.

1 Comment on "Heart-Shaped Box"

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  1. aeaves says:

    His second novel, Horns, is even better.

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