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Shy Grove: A Ghost Story Kindle Edition
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|Length: 280 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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Johnson jumps right into the story and hardly lets up right from the first page. His characters are well written, three dimensional, and easy to connect with. My favorite character by far was the teenage son, Zach; the troubled teen who just wants to go back to his home in San Antonio instead of spend his summer at his crazy aunt's house (who is dead by the way). Watching him bumble his way through awkward interactions with the local girl from the auto-parts store and then have to deal with the supernatural troubles at the family estate was a real treat.
If you like horror movies/books about ghosts and haunted houses, do yourself a favor and read this book as soon as possible. This story has it all: cult rituals, hauntings, angry spirits, town secrets, cool trucks, pottery, window-unit air conditioning, seedy locals, and of course the pond...oh my the pond. Looks nice and inviting, perhaps you can just dip a toe in it. What's the worst that could happen?
Set against the backdrop of a dying Texas town, and with characters that could have been plucked from the reader's very own family, Johnson forces us to ask ourselves, "how long would we stay in their situation?" These characters aren't stupid. Sure, at some point they each do something that makes us want to scream into the book, "WHY?!" but they are justified in their actions. Johnson knows a trope when he sees one, and he turns them on their head in a form of authorial prestidigitation that forces the reader to adjust expectations on the fly.
The characters become real from the first few pages, if even a little thin. But that's the brilliance of a story like this: Johnson creates characters that are real not because they are quirky or have some blatantly original identifying trait, but instead creates comfortable vessels for his readers to climb into, shift about, and mutter, "I reckon I'll sit a spell." And that's just what I did with each and every one of his characters.
Zach, arguably the protagonist of this story (though it is told from three points of view to great effect), starts off annoying and stereotypical, but by the end of the first act you don't only know him... you ARE him, as he watches the world around him crumble all the while enjoying a teen boy's first summer crush.
For me, though, the stand-out character is Angela. She is the true stand-in for the reader, and it's through her experiences that we find the lines between reality and fantasy blur. Are they all going mad? What's wrong with Gary? What's wrong with her? And why is Zach so weirded out?
At its heart, this is a family drama and is more psychological horror than it is "arterial-spray-on-the-wall gory." Yes, there is gore, but Johnson uses with such finesse as to make it seem more like garnish than the main course. In other words, the blood is there because it has to be, to give the horror weight, and to give our young family consequences for their actions... or inactions.
This is summer reading at its finest, and it will have you sitting on your porch sipping lemonade during the day, and hiding cross-legged in the middle of your bed at night.