Tag Archives: Scribner

Review: The Children’s Crusade

The Children's Crusade
The Children’s Crusade
By Ann Packer
(Scribner Book Company, Hardcover, 9781476710457, April 7, 2015, 448pp.)

The Short of It:

This novel has normal written all over it and yet it’s the most unsettling story I’ve read in a while.

The Rest of It:

The story opens with the promise of young love. Penny and Bill begin their lives together. He’s a doctor, she’s an artist and the home they buy holds the promise of happiness to come. They have four children, Rebecca, Robert, Ryan and James. All should be golden but that last child is not like the other children and his behavior and presence is a constant reminder that you cannot control everything and for Penny, this proves to be too much. She moves out of the house and into a shed in the backyard. The shed, her “studio” becomes a home for her, a home away from her children and her husband and her responsibility as a mother.

What makes this story so unsettling is how they all react to it. Bill seems to know exactly what is going on but is in denial. The children, old enough to know that things are not right, talk about a crusade to bring her back. But how do you bring back a woman who wants nothing to do with who she is?

I had a really hard time with this one. Mostly, the subject matter is what did me in because the writing itself was really quite good. Penny, is a hard one to understand and Bill, oh man, I was so frustrated with Bill. As large families tend to do, they do come together in times of crisis but everyone seems to dance around James and all of his problems. As a reader, I didn’t feel as if we spent enough time with the children as children. They grow into adults quite quickly and so I was left with a sense of longing… lost childhood and all that. Penny was so elusive and odd and although I did manage to see another side to her towards the end, I felt that it came too late.

I didn’t love this story but this isn’t the kind of story anyone loves. It’s frightening to see a family in this light and Packer does an excellent job of throwing it all under the microscope. No one in this novel stands out as a hero. Everyone is flawed and unflattering in some way. It’s a book full of faults and if Packer intended for it to be that, then she succeeded in a spectacular fashion. How do the events of our childhood shape who we are today? Lots to consider while reading this one.

Overall, I didn’t care for the story or the characters in it but there’s something there that deserves to be pondered a bit more.

Source: Sent to me by the publisher via Edelweiss
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: Revival

By Stephen King
(Scribner Book Company, Hardcover, 9781476770383, November 2014, 405pp.)

*No Spoilers*

The Short of It:

A young, impressionable boy is taken with the local minister and his ability to make things magical, but when their faith is tested, both battle their own demons to survive.

The Rest of It:

Jamie Morton is only six-years old when Charles Jacobs comes to town. Jacobs, married with a young son of his own, quickly takes a liking to Jamie and his family. In fact, many of the folks in town begin to attend church again just to hear what the new minister has to say and when Jamie’s brother loses his voice in a freak accident, Charles Jacobs comes to his aid and heals him. Not with spiritual healing, but with electricity.

After a tragic accident, Jacobs faith in God disappears entirely and what he chooses to hold dear, are the electrical experiments he’s developed over the years. Traveling from town to town, he reinvents himself, peddling what is essentially lightning and a whole lot of fanfare. It’s at this point in his life, that he runs into Jamie again. This time Jamie is an adult, battling a wicked heroin addiction. Can Jamie be saved?

King has said in many interviews that Revival is his return to true horror. I believe his definition of horror and mine vary greatly these days. Perhaps writing about a heroin addiction IS horrific, given King’s personal battle with drug and alcohol addiction but the story itself is not scary in that “clowns in the sewer” way. Nope. It reminded me a lot of Frankenstein and the one Mary Shelley reference did not escape me. I hardly think it was a coincidence that he included it because just as I was thinking ‘Frankenstein’, the name dropped.

Without being specific, lots of terrible things happen and they are all devastating. Devastating enough to absolutely wreck a person and let me tell you, it tore me up. These characters are damaged and flawed and King does damaged and flawed so well.


The story lagged for me and since I was expecting a real horror story, I was slightly disappointed with the direction that it took. It seemed too safe and yet, I still enjoyed it. What King nailed is childhood itself. Those moments where Jamie is young and all of the wonders that go along with childhood… King was spot-on with them. That sense of innocence lost? Heartbreaking.

ReviveMe 2014

A group of us read this together and I must say, it was pretty quiet on Twitter. Nearly everyone was curious as to where the story was going but there wasn’t a whole lot to discuss. Compared to his other novels, the ones he is known for (IT, The Shining, The Stand, Carrie), this one seems a little thin but if you dig deep, there is substance there and some well-developed characters to spend some time with.

Have you read it? What did you think?

Source: Purchased
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.