Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Scariest Book I've Read in Nearly 35 Years

It actually may have been more than 35 years since I've read a book that frightened me this much. Before I give you the name of this novel, let me describe myself reading it over the course of a week: I could be heard moaning and whimpering while reading; I asked my husband to go to bed at the same time as me so that I wouldn't be alone while I read; one night I wouldn't let him turn the lights out in the bedroom until I fell asleep; I could be seen physically shaking the book- I don't know whether I was trying to shake the words out or stop characters from doing things, but I didn't even notice I was doing that until my husband questioned me about it (while laughing.)  Despite my fear, every night I picked up this book willingly, even greedily, because it was so good.

The novel is Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt.  From the first sentence -"Steve Grant rounded the corner of the parking lot behind Black Spring Market & Deli just in time to see Katherine van Wyler get run over by an antique Dutch barrel organ." - to the last sentence, this book had me on edge. Originally published in 2013 and written in Dutch, it was translated and published in the U.S. last year.  What is unusual about that is that Olde Heuvelt basically rewrote the story to take place in the Hudson River Valley of New York and rewrote the ending. He writes in the acknowledgements "I wrote {the last chapters} in English, and I had a blast while I was at it. In my opinion, it's become a better book."

The story takes place in present day in a small town that is cursed by a seventeenth-century witch.  Her eyes and mouth are sewn shut and she regularly appears around town. A local security group monitors her movement and notifies residents through an app and although the residents can leave town for a few days at a time, if they're gone longer than that, they have a strong (usually successful) urge to commit suicide. The town has its own tribunal to make sure that no one speaks of the curse to the outside world. Things in town function fairly well until, well, something happens.

Hex has won numerous book awards. I can't believe I hadn't heard about it till Stephen King recommended it (this is the link to his recommendations). By the way, the last book that I remember frightening me this much was Pet Semetary by Stephen King. I've been searching for a book like Hex for a long time. Thank you Thomas Olde Heuvelt for scaring me for an entire week.

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