A family vacation goes asunder amid notes of Deliverance, religious delusions and frighteningly plausible violence.
Seventeen-year-old Stony and his sister, Molly, have been roped into a road trip to New Hampshire with their father and his live-in girlfriend. The siblings commiserate about the trip and their clueless father’s teasing and hotheaded machismo. At a rest stop en route to their vacation rental, their father has a confrontation with two derelict characters, Leopold and Abraham. Abraham is a simple brute, but Leopold is a complex religious zealot who fancies himself an angel of death, chosen to exterminate those undeserving of life. After the tense and foreboding run-in, Stony and his family are marked and subsequently hunted by Leopold and Abraham. Stony’s calm strength and extensive knowledge of psychoses (his grandmother’s murder catapulted him into thorough studies of warped human minds) counteract the rash, hasty temper of his well-intending father. Though the majority of the novella is told in third person from Stony’s point of view, there are brief, rambling and frightening glimpses into the mind of Leopold as he calculates with Bible-based fervor why and how his victims should die. At one point, Stony’s father says, “How can you explain something so cruel and pointless?” It’s the inexplicability of cruelty that makes this horrifying page-turner so effective.
A compelling portrayal of inevitable, realistic violence and evil personified. (Thriller. 14 & up)