Teenagers Erik and Thorn are descending into madness on converging paths, heading toward a ruinous first encounter with each other.
Both highly intelligent boys, their lives are filled with tragedy and abuse—real, imagined, or exaggerated. Erik was abducted as a child not long after his father died. Thorn’s parents have been abusing him since his sister died, and he’s bullied at school. Lengthy sections from each boy’s point of view at ages 14, 16, and 18 are prefaced by literary quotations, including one that the title is derived from: poet Gerard Manley Hopkins’ “I wake and feel the fell of dark, not day.” Erik’s narrative is addressed to the wife he feels he’s destined to meet. Well on his way to a height of 7 feet, Erik chooses a life of silence after he begins to perform miracles and display stigmata. He reads the Bible in Latin and considers himself “a martyr waiting for [his] holy death.” Hirsute Thorn is tormented by voices in his head: the “growls and grunts and whining saws” of Sawmen, Guardians, and the Architect who direct his actions and reactions. Downes brilliantly plays with language and metaphor, and he explores the dualities of sanity/insanity, beauty/ugliness, voice/voicelessness in a chilling echo of real incidents of school violence.
A stunning debut novel that offers sophisticated readers a glimpse into the psychological disintegrations of two distinct characters. (Fiction. 14 & up)