A grandfather tells his young grandson a story about four friends in this debut novella.
Twelve-year-old Steven doesn’t want to visit his grandfather on Brushy Mountain, but this will likely be the man’s last summer there before he moves into a nursing home. He also tells exciting tales, Steven’s mother promises. Steven has a disability—“low vision,” which is not defined—and he likes to write stories and build robots. Instead of following up on these character traits or exploring Steven’s relationship with his grandfather, the novella mainly consists of a tale Grandpa tells about four friends who work in different departments at the Capitol Mall in Little Rock, Arkansas. Grandpa claims that “I was there and I know what happened,” although the part he plays never becomes clear. Still, he discloses details that he cannot have easily known; Tony, for example, saw his best friend get shot but never told anyone. Grandpa identifies another character, Mary, as autistic from “problems in the delivery room,” an unlikely cause. Kim works as a counselor, and Mark’s job involves developing a “highly toxic chemical” in the building’s basement lab. His boss, Gary, wants to hurry the process, but his interference causes a massive explosion. Severely disabled in the accident, Tony, Mark, and Kim begin experiencing supernatural “things.” The story then devolves into a hodgepodge of haunted towns, evil forces, and human sacrifice. Even though Grandpa is telling this tale to a young boy, drug and sexual references mark this as an adult novella. Inconsistencies in the text make for difficult reading; character names sometimes change spelling (from Mary to “Marry” or Tony to “Toney”) and verbs randomly shift from past to present tense. Frequent punctuation and spelling errors—“he inhales like it is a scrumptious. Stake!”—hamper readability as well. The book ends abruptly, leaving the reader puzzled as to what it was all actually about.
A supernatural tale offers a mishmash of genre tropes that never coheres.