Long ago, Nathan lived in a house in the country with his abusive father—and has never told his family what happened there.
Long ago, Maddie was a little girl making dolls in her bedroom when she saw something she shouldn’t have—and is trying to remember that lost trauma by making haunting sculptures.
Long ago, something sinister, something hungry, walked in the tunnels and the mountains and the coal mines of their hometown in rural Pennsylvania.
Now, Nate and Maddie Graves are married, and they have moved back to their hometown with their son, Oliver.
And now what happened long ago is happening again . . . and it is happening to Oliver. He meets a strange boy who becomes his best friend, a boy with secrets of his own and a taste for dark magic.
This dark magic puts them at the heart of a battle of good versus evil and a fight for the soul of the family—and perhaps for all of the world. But the Graves family has a secret weapon in this battle: their love for one another.
In Chuck Wendig’s “The Book of Accidents,” family ties are as tangled as the secrets lurking underground. An intricate tapestry of supernatural events, lies and secrets, this one is a must-read. Handily, this literary weapon of mass destruction is 500+ pages, so doubles up as a doorstop, AND is perfect for fending off any intruders who may be lurking in the dark… talk about getting your money’s worth!
We follow Nate, Maddie and Oliver, who return to Nate’s childhood home in rural Pennsylvania. Nate’s abusive father Carl Graves is on his way out, and is quickly losing his battle to cancer, before he goes, he sells his home to Nate for a total of one dollar. Despite Nate’s hesitations, the family moves in. The stage is set for a dramatic return to the past, and a series of events that will unravel the very fabric of reality is set into motion. Oliver is different. He’s incredibly empathetic, to the point he can visibly see and physically feel the pain of others, and finds himself at the heart of a supernatural maelstrom including but not limited to, a notorious serial killer with a knack for numbers, parallel universes and the inexplicable disappearance of his father.
In a genre often fraught with cliches, “The Book of Accidents,” defies all expectations with its uncharted and nuanced approach. This is a slow-building horror novel that gradually ramps up the tension with the introduction of multiple plot lines, each brimming with its own twists and turns. Very very little of the contents is covered in my synopsis, and even less is touched on in the blurb. Second only to Brian Evenson’s “Last Days,” Wendig keeps you guessing until the very end.
In his “Sliding doors,” approach, Wendig deftly comments on the complexities of trauma and its repercussions through Nate. A flawed but brilliant protagonist, Nate navigates the murky waters of his own abusive upbringing, whilst striving to break free from a cycle of violence.
The remaining cast of characters are similarly richly drawn and complex, each battling their own “demons.” Maddie’s unwavering support of Nate and deep love for Oliver, as well as Olly’s Danny Torrance-esque abilities mean that they practically jump off of the page, whilst Edmund Reese Walker and “Eli,” loom ominously in the background, threatening to engulf them all. We mainly read from the third person Graves family’s perspectives, but Chuck occasionally takes us back in time in the form of flashbacks. Generally I find these to be pretty irritating… but I found myself so immersed in these sub-plots that by the time we returned to the main story-line I couldn’t wait for the next one. They served their purpose in providing tid-bits of information and moments of clarity, and eventually I found that I didn’t mind being torn away from the pulse-pounding action in return for another clue as to what the heck was actually happening.
Wendig’s prose is flawless. As sharp and crisp as an apple, the combination of his exemplary writing and short chapters makes the narrative addictive and vivid. From the eerie descriptions of Nate’s childhood to the claustrophobic tunnel scenes, I felt fully immersed in Chuck’s meticulously crafted world of time-travelling ghosts and alternate realities. I assure you, you’ll be turning these pages well into the night eager to uncover the secrets within.
Never predictable, always terrifying- this is an example of what I call “Big-concept-horror,” i.e Wendig has enough ideas in this narrative alone to fill dozens of novels. “The Book of Accidents,” is a gripping and thought-provoking journey into the shadows. It proudly embraces its own insanity, nothing is EVER quite what it seems and every twist of the plot reveals a new layer of intrigue. Bravo.