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The Beautiful Evil Paperback – July 2, 2011
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This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
"Ms. Bryant's style set its unrelenting claws into me until I finished her book. Bryant follows in Dean Koontz' footsteps with this psycho thriller. The Beautiful Evil is a cross between the idiosyncratic, quirky TV thriller "Twin Peaks" and Stephen King's "Dreamcatcher" --Leigh Anne Lindsey, Publisher, SEASTORM PRESS
About the Author
Robbi Sommers Bryant Vice President Of Redwood Writers published works include 4 novels, 5 short story collections and 1 book of poetry. Her work has been published in magazines including Readers Digest, Redbook, Cupido and Penthouse and included in several anthologies. After the sudden death of her 21-year-old son in the late 1990's, Robbi's passion and creative flame extinguished. She only began writing again last year. Robbi has recently retired as a dental hygienist. She has also worked as a licensed esthetician and a certified massage therapist. Once a disco dance teacher and tarot card reader/teacher, Robbi has dabbled in many of life's experiences. She is married and is the mother of three sons. Justin 1976-1997, Brian and Nick (twins, age 28.) The Beautiful Evil, a novel, is her first major work since her son passed.
Top customer reviews
A well written, well paced, psychological thriller. I enjoyed the parallel use of mythical figures as well as the allusion to the "Pandora's Box" myth.
As I read this story, I kept trying to find reasons for Constance's psychosis just because that's the way I am. I thought, "OK. It's the mother's fault the daughter's crazy" and "No, it's the father's fault" and then back to trying to figure it out again. I like when books do that to me; keep me thinking all throughout the story!
Pick up this book and read it slowly and carefully. Let it envelop you in it's madness. It's a jaw dropping ending and a story I thoroughly enjoyed!
One of the most hypnotically disturbing novels I've read in years, The Beautiful Evil brings a depth and horror to the story of Pandora's Box (jar) that I never felt to read the original Greek myth. Mixing a modernized story of Pandora with some further Greek mythology, as well as with other subtle spiritual symbolism and philosophy/theodicy, this is a powerful and frightening novel that will not only keep you guessing as you read, but probably contemplating it long after.
As the story begins, the main character, Constance, seems to be a paradoxical personality, both self-hating and prideful - arguably not as an unusual and impossible contradiction as it sounds (and some might suggest, the very defect behind the fall of Lucifer and of man - but I won't get too theological because the novel is more subtly sinister and not overtly religious at all). It first appears this personality disorder was caused by her inability to recover from the loss of the father she saw as perfect and her mother's reactionary behavior in response to her daughter's childhood blindness to the imperfections which led to his death. Even before her obsession with the Grecian vase that will bring terrible sorrow, however, Constance's thoughts and behavior already make the reader wonder if her perceptions can be trusted or whether her mental illness started distorting them long before that day. Before her demons are even let loose to wreak havoc, she shows signs of being as selfish, entitled and superior as she is depressed, unfulfilled and mistreated, suggesting the possibility that the vase isn't really to blame. The reader is left to speculate - because of this early sense of her personality and because of the novel's reference to the Greek myths which make Pandora the archetypal "beautiful evil" (read: female) who brings torment to man - whether Constance's personality is really the result of emotional abuse and an over-controlling mother or whether she is somehow inherently prone to evil, due to her femininity or her genes is up in the air. This is a sometimes hard to decipher mix of a nature vs. nurture argument and hints of a radical feminism vs. an understandable response to misogyny/chauvinism argument, neither of which seem to be definitively settled by the story's conclusion. But I'm not certain they were meant to be or even whether any conclusion can be reached on what the story says about choice and free will - and it is partly these unanswered questions which make the novel so disturbing. It also may be that the book simply needs multiple readings to pick up on all the symbolism and requires time spent reflecting on what it says about these subjects, but the painful and often seedy and violent situations Constance becomes involved in after she opens the vase and the fact that she is, at times, not likable at all might make this difficult for a lot of readers. I thought the novel was extremely well-written and fascinating but, at the same time, I'm not sure it's a darkness I'd want to visit again and again.
Overall, I think the novel is an impressive work, making the ancient myth even more interesting and approachable for modern readers, as it brings to the tale present-day views on mental illness and emotional neglect and/or abuse and reflection on whether certain ideas of personal freedom and happiness are really only a dangerous illusion. The author did an amazing job of creating her main character's voice and inner world and the story is told in a unique style. The short, staccato thoughts and impressions, mixed into the longer, more complex prose and the flashes from present to past to dream (and the tense changes from present tense for past and dreams to past tense for present action) are a little challenging at first, but the voice is so original and real, it soon makes Constance a living, breathing personality all her own and punctuates her fast downward spiral.
For those who like the more thoughtful, literary thriller or horror story, this is definitely a creepy, dark and nightmarish tale not to be missed, though be warned you might be left with the feeling you didn't just take a journey with someone descending into madness, but were brought along on a descent into hell. (Note: some descriptions of sex and violence may not be for every reader.)
With brevity I want to make some key points for readers contemplating buying this book:
1. Easy to read, but not light on anecdote, symbolism, and intrigue--sucks you in like the vortex of a tornado.
2. Vivid word pictures! Robbi paints a mosaic of images from the prose that captivate the imagination.
3. It's a "stealth" thriller. No heavy blood and gore, but more of what happens in our minds. Those silent thoughts we think nobody will ever know about.
4. Pacing is superb, she keeps the story moving with just enough "back story" to make you go, "Uh Huh...get it". I read it in three sittings.
5. Character development is well done, bravo there! I am a man and could see the world through the central character, Constance (a woman).
6. Unlikely twists and turns, it's not predictable!
7. Last comment, invoking spiritual component on every page.
In short, I'm a reader and writer of Non-Fiction business books and I loved "The Beautiful Evil" and you will too!