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Stranger Will Hardcover – March 13, 2011
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"This is an original--unlike anything you've ever read before." -Rob Roberge, author of More Than They Could Chew and Drive
"Stranger Will is a nightmare landscape littered with the carcasses of fatherhood and various social mores. This is one paranoid, challenging, beautiful, and pitch-dark book. I'm a little afraid of this Ross guy now; but I'll also read anything he writes."-Paul Tremblay, author of The Little Sleep and In The Mean Time
"Just like a Palahniuk novel, Stranger Will reads volatile: it could go any way. Caleb J. Ross leads you with a wry smile into dark places, but by the time you realize it's too late. You will follow him anywhere." -Alan Emmins, author of Mop Men: Inside the World of Crime Scene Cleaners
"Caleb J. Ross is a dangerous writer...you are letting Caleb J. Ross into your mind at your own risk." -Jeremy Robert Johnson, author of Angel Dust Apocalypse and Extinction Journals
"More nihilistic than a chainsaw-wielding midget who wants to be the tallest man on Earth." -Bradley Sands, author of Sorry I Ruined Your Orgy and editor of Bust Down the Door and Eat All the Chickens
About the Author
Caleb J. Ross has a BA in English Literature and creative writing from Emporia State University. His fiction and nonfiction has appeared widely, both online and in print. He is the author of Charactered Pieces: stories (OW Press), Stranger Will: a novel (Otherworld Publications, 2011), I Didn't Mean to Be Kevin: a novel (Black Coffee Press, 2011), and As a Machine and Parts (Aqueous books, 20-). He is an editor at Outsider Writers Collective and moderates The Velvet Podcast, which gathers writers for round table discussions on literature. Visit his official page at calebjross.com, his Twitter feed at @calebjross, and his Facebook at facebook.com/rosscaleb.
Top customer reviews
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Saying Stranger Will is compelling is the understatement of the year. The main character, William, removes the stains the dead leave behind, literally. William's whole life is calls at 3 am in the morning, chemicals in the back of a van working into his pores, his life. He's in a dead-end job and in a marriage teetering on failing miserably. His pregnant wife is focused on their soon to be born child while he is focused on spending as much time away from her as possible. The harsh reality settles in: When all you see is death, what's the point? A principal of the local elementary school takes William under her wing, determined to show him there is another way. Her group is intent on making the world perfect, one child at a time. Once William is in the group, he realizes perfection isn't all it's cracked up to be.
Quality fiction is both compelling and unpredictable. It's also dangerous, which is why we read it. Ross writes with all of these factors in mind. From the first pages, he takes you by the hand, leading you down dark corridors where you really don't want to go, but you're unable to turn away. And when you look back at him, and he gives you that sly grin, you know that you have to walk the path, there is no turning back because you're in too deep. Fiction 101 dictates we know our characters, and it's obvious Caleb has spent a lot of time with his story people. Readers seek out this intimacy and relish the thrill when they find it. Consider yourselves warned. Caleb writes with an intelligence and depth far beyond his years, and his words will scar your heart forever.
Let's get the boring, nitpicky stuff out of the way -- as usual. Typos, which seemed to get worse as the book went along. Everything from misspellings to what seem to be misused words. Why?? I expect this in a goodreads win -- because they're most likely sending out proofs rather than finished editions -- but this wasn't a win, I bought this on Amazon, so I expect the quality to compare to any other book I'd pick up in a store. This kind of sloppiness just doesn't make me a fan.
Now that's out of the way . . .
This is a very interesting story. William and Julie are expecting their first child -- a child William is determined not to have. He works with heavy duty chemicals as a "human remains removal specialist", and fears the damage the chemicals may have already done to the unborn baby. In his endeavor to be rid of the child, he is helped by the mysterious Mrs. Rose.
This idea was so compelling to me that I had Amazon overnight a copy when I couldn't find it locally -- something I almost never do. I'm just too cheap to pay for that kind of postage, but I just had to read it as soon as possible.
Was it worth it?
I don't know. I found the characters and their lives grotesque and unlikable. Even Julie, who -- as a mom -- I felt I should have been most sympathetic to. They're all so mired in these ridiculously pointless lives, it's difficult to empathize with them. On the other hand, has any parent escaped having an instant (or more) of doubt and fear when faced with the reality of having children? It's such a huge responsibility, one I know I felt vastly unprepared for. So it wasn't like I couldn't understand William's reluctance to accept this new role.
I also found William's solution to his "problem" truly horrific -- even thinking about it now makes me feel upset, even nauseated.
I think I was looking for a different story, one in which William and Julie have their doubts -- about parenthood and about each other -- but work their way through the problems to reach a new point in their lives. This is NOT that story.
I didn't really understand what Mrs. Rose was striving to attain, or why so many people were willing to help her. I didn't understand William's passivity throughout the story. In the end, I did sympathize just a bit with Julie, but not enough that I ended up liking her.
Having said all that, though, I can't give this book only 1 star. I didn't like it, but that doesn't make it a bad book -- I think my reaction to it is indicative of how it challenged my values and my beliefs. The ideas presented would probably rate 4 stars -- they really are that intriguing.
So I guess I'll split the difference and give it 3 stars, subject to change as I ponder this book in the coming weeks.
Several times I had to put this book down, but I’m glad I continued. The strength of Stranger Will is its strong prose and ability to take you to places you had no idea you wanted to go. Expect the dark, and the unexpected.
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