The book of accidents A novel

Chuck Wendig

Book - 2021

"A new masterpiece of literary horror by the New York Times bestselling author of Wanderers about a family returning to their hometown--and to the dark past that haunts them still. Long ago, Nathan Graves lived in a house in the country with his abusive father--and has never told his family what happened in that house. Long ago, Maddie Graves was a little girl making dolls in her bedroom when she saw something she shouldn't--and is trying to remember that lost trauma by making haunting sculptures. Long ago, something sinister, something hungry, walked in the tunnels and the mountains and the coal mines of their hometown in rural Pennsylvania. Now Nate and Maddie are married, and they have moved back to their hometown with their so...n, Oliver. And now what happened long ago is happening again . . . and it is happening to Oliver. He meets a strange boy who becomes his best friend, a boy with secrets of his own, and a taste for dark magic. This dark magic puts them at the heart of a battle of good versus evil and a fight for the soul of the family--and perhaps for all of the world. But the Graves family has a secret weapon in this fight: their love for each other"--

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Horror fiction
Paranormal fiction
New York : Del Rey 2021.
Main Author
Chuck Wendig (author)
First Edition
Physical Description
529 pages ; 25 cm
Contents unavailable.
Review by Booklist Review

Wendig, whose last novel, Wanderers (2019), is on its way to becoming a classic of pre-apocalyptic fiction, now tells a tale that also threatens to become a classic, this time of literary horror. Nate, Maddie, and their young son have moved into the house in the country where Nate grew up. It's not exactly a joyous homecoming: Nate's late father was abusive (although Nate keeps most of that part of his life to himself). But he and Maddie hope the change in setting, from urban to rural, will be good for their son, Oliver, who has been having problems at school and in social situations. Soon, however, the darkness approaches: Nate has visions of his father, and Maddie has her own visions. And Oliver? Let's just say that his natural tendency toward empathy goes into overdrive. It seems encouraging, at first, that Oliver is able to make a new friend, but when Wendig starts revealing the truth about that friend, we think: Uh-oh, this isn't going to end well. Wendig has fashioned a horror story that feels at once old-fashioned and cutting-edge, masterfully taking a familiar scenario and shaking it up to devastating effect. More proof, if proof were still needed, that Wendig is a force to be reckoned with across genres.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Philadelphia police officer Nate Graves, the protagonist of this creepy supernatural thriller from bestseller Wendig (Wanderers), initially rejects his much-hated, abusive father's dying wish that he buy his childhood house for $1 and then live there with his artist wife, Maddie, and their 15-year-old son, Oliver. The house in Upper Bucks County, Pa., holds horrible memories for Nate, but Oliver, an empath who feels others' pain and fear, insists he needs a fresh start after being humiliated and bullied for his special ability. A vengeful ghost who may be Nate's late father stalks the house, and nearby is the park that a serial killer used as a dumping ground before he vanished just as he was being executed. A boy's penchant for black magic, a haunted train tunnel, and sculptures that come to life add to the eerie atmosphere. Wendig is strongest when concentrating on the Graveses' unshakable love for each other, but the complex plot frequently devolves into confusion and repetitive scenes. Horror fans will best appreciate this one. Agent: Stacia Decker, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner Literary. (July)

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Review by Library Journal Review

Wendig's ("Star Wars: Aftermath" series) latest novel pays homage to classic horror staples, featuring demonic hauntings and an isolated small town, complete with a prison, where one family braces against the forces of evil. Former cop Nate Graves moves to the town with his artist wife Maddie and sensitive teen son Oliver, who is coping with anxiety. Together they face the ghost of a local serial killer, bullying jocks, and an alcohol-addicted writer, as well as Nate's relationship with his abusive father. There may be too many stories wrapped up in Wendig's tale, whose vague statements about the hardship of "this world" weigh down the dialogue. Curiously, the demons hunting the Graves family repeatedly praise Nate and Maddie's parenting, which largely negates the novel's suspense. In the narration, Xe Sands's soothing voice combines well with George Newburn's folksy cadence to bring out the rustic qualities of the dark woods where the action happens. VERDICT Passionate fans will love this homage to the genre, but more diverse and innovative works may be a better choice for limited collections.--Aaron Heil, State Lib. of Kansas

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

A family that's banished itself to the woods of rural Pennsylvania finds more than they bargained for when supernatural forces decide they would make quite a snack. Prolific and delightfully profane, Wendig pulled off a good trick last time with his sprawling, inventive, and prescient apocalypse chronicle, Wanderers (2019). This is another doorstopper, but here he returns to macabre horror reminiscent of his supernatural Miriam Black novels, injected with a juicy dose of Stephen King--like energy. An eerie opening introduces Edmund Walker Reese, a serial killer strapped into Pennsylvania's electric chair circa 1990 for murdering four girls--a killer who disappears the second the switch is flipped. In the present day, former Philly cop Nate Graves is stewing over the death of his abusive father, who's left him a home in the woods. Maddie, Nate's artist wife, thinks it's perfect for her work, not to mention a natural refuge for their hypersensitive son, Oliver, who's imbued with not only a preternatural empathy for others, but also a gift for lending the pained some solace. At Nate's new job as a Fish and Game officer, his partner, Axel Figeroa, always has one eye open for trouble because of their proximity to Ramble Rocks, where Reese committed his dirty deeds, as does the Graves' neighbor Jed Homackie, a whiskey-drinking peacenik with secrets of his own. As happens, things get weird. Nate starts seeing his dead father around every corner. Maddie experiences fugue states that aren't simpatico with her newfound predilection for chainsaw sculpture. Oliver gets the worst of it, finding himself caught between a couple of vicious bullies and a newfound frenemy, Jake, who quickly emerges as someone------or something--far darker than he appears. The characters are eccentric and likable even if their plight isn't quite unpredictable, and the book will be catnip to horror fans, complete with meddling kids, doppelgangers, dimensional fissures, demons, and ghosts; it's a prototypical edge-of-your-seat plunge into real terror. A grade-A, weirdly comforting, and familiar stew of domestic drama, slasher horror, and primeval evil. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

1 Tinnitus This was Oliver: The boy, fifteen, knelt on the ground, his chin against his chest, the soft undersides of his forearms pressing into his ears even as his fingers dug into the thatch of messy hair at the back of his head. His ears rang sharply--not the tolling of a bell but a shrill whine, like that of a dental drill. To one side of him: yellow lockers. To the other: a water fountain. Above: a waterfall of bright fluorescence. Somewhere ahead were two gunshots, bang, bang . Each made his heart jump. Somewhere behind him were the murmur and rustle of students moving from classroom to classroom, seeking safety. Oliver imagined them dead. He imagined his teachers dead. Blood on linoleum. Brains on chalkboard. He imagined weeping parents on the news, and the suicides of survivors, and the thoughts and prayers of uncaring politicians--he could see the pain like a little ripple that became a wave, that met other waves and became tsunamis roaring back and forth over people until all were drowned underneath. A hand grasped his shoulder and shook him. A word spoken as if through a fishbowl--his name. Someone was saying his name. "Olly. Oliver. Olly!" He gently rocked himself back on his ankles, sitting partly upright. It was Mr. Partlow, his BioSci teacher. "Hey. Hey, lockdown drill's almost over, Oliver. You okay? Come on, kiddo, let's get you--" But then the teacher let go and took a half step back. Mr. Partlow stared down at the floor--no, not at the floor. At Oliver. Oliver took a look, too. His crotch was wet. Fingers of liquid were spreading down his pant legs. Ahead, he saw a few students gather and stare. Landon Gray, who sat behind him in homeroom, looked sad. Amanda McInerney--who was in all the plays, and chorus, and student council--made a gross face and giggled. Mr. Partlow helped him stand up and took him away. Oliver wiped tears from his face, tears he didn't even know he'd spilled. 2 The Lawyer This was Nate: That same day, Nate sat in a lawyer's office in Langhorne. The lawyer was round and grub white, like the inside of a cut potato. In the window of the office, an AC unit grumbled and growled, so that the man had to raise his voice in order to be heard. "Thank you for coming," the lawyer, Mr. Rickert, said. "Uh-huh." Nate tried to keep his hands from balling into fists. Tried, and failed. "Your father is sick," the lawyer said. "Good," Nate answered without hesitation. Rickert leaned forward. "It's cancer. Colon cancer." "Fine." "He'll be dead soon. Very soon. He's on hospice." Nate shrugged. "Okay." "Okay," the lawyer repeated, and Nate couldn't tell if the man was surprised by his reaction--or prepared for it. "Mr. Graves--" "I know you expect me to be broken up about all this, but I'm not. Not one little bit. My father was--or, is, I guess--a tremendous piece of garbage. I have no love for him. I have only hatred and disdain for that monster masquerading as a man, and truth be told, I've been dreaming of this day for the better part of twenty years, maybe longer. I've imagined how it would go. I've prayed to whatever god that would listen that my father, the piece of shit that he is, would go painfully and miserably, that it wouldn't be fast, wouldn't be a quick sprint to the end, but, rather, a slow, stumbling marathon, a . . . a clumsy run where he's painting the walls with his lung blood, where he's drowning in his own fluids, where he's gotta wear some, some bag on his side to contain his own f--his own mess, a bag that breaks on him or that pops out of its port every time he moves to adjust his ruined, dying body. You know what? I was hoping it'd be cancer. A crawling, steady cancer, too, not fast like pancreatic. Something that eats him up from the inside sure as he ate up our family. Cancer for cancer, tit for tat. I figured it'd be lung, given the way he smoked. Or liver, given the drink. But colon cancer? I'll take colon. He was . . . he was always full of shit, so that is a fitting end for that semi-human sack of septic excrement." The lawyer blinked. Silence passed between them. Rickert pursed his lips. "Are you done monologuing?" "Go to hell." He paused, regretting being so angry at this man who probably didn't deserve it. "Yes, I am." "Your speech doesn't surprise me. Your father said you'd say those things." He laughed a little, a high-pitched titter, and he gesticulated with both hands so it looked like his fingers were little moths taking flight. "Well, not those things , exactly. But the gist." "So, what's the point? Why am I here?" "Your father, before he passes, wants to offer you a deal." "No deal, whatever it is." "It's a favorable deal for you. Don't you want to hear it?" "I don't." Nate stood up, kicking the chair out behind him. It juddered louder and more aggressively than he'd intended it, but it was what it was and he wouldn't apologize. He turned to leave. "It's the house," the lawyer said. Nate's hand paused on the doorknob. "The house." "That's right. Your childhood home." "Great. He can leave it to me in the will." "It's not in the will. He will sell the house to you, instead. The house, and the thirteen acres of land on which it sits." Nate shrugged. "Sorry. I can't afford it." The house--as the lawyer noted, Nate's childhood home--was in an area that had, over the decades, become prime real estate. Upper Bucks County. Used to be just farmland and swamp, but these days, prices were up, taxes were up, rich people had moved in from Philly or New York. Gentrification wasn't just for the inner cities. "Tell him to sell it, then. He can use the money to pay for a really fantastic casket." "Surely you can afford the cost of a single dollar." Nate turned his narrowed gaze toward Rickert. He ran a hand through his beard and winced. "A dollar." "A dollar, that's right." "If I have it right, the idea there is so I avoid . . . what, some sort of taxes? I pay a dollar, and it's a free-and-clear transaction." "That is the perception." Nate nodded. "The 'perception.' Uh-huh. I'm a city cop. I'm not too caught up on white collar stuff, it's mostly blue collar for me, but I know a con when I smell it. Dad could just gift the house to me and it'd be good to go. Or I could inherit it like most people do--and I'd only be on the hook for taxes if I sold it and made more money than the fair market value of the house. But this, and correct me if I'm wrong, means that if I buy the house for a dollar and sell it for any amount over that dollar, I get whopped with a capital gains tax on top of it being income. I have that right?" An unhappy smile stitched between the lawyer's plump cheeks. "That's likely correct. The IRS usually demands its pound of flesh." "I'm not buying the house. I'm not buying anything the old man is selling. I wouldn't buy a cup of water from him if I was dying of thirst. I don't know what his game is, except to saddle me with a house I don't want. Please tell him to take his offer and shove it up his rotting, cancerous behind." "I can convey that message." The lawyer stood and offered a hand to shake. Nate looked at it like the man had just blown his nose into it, no tissue. "The offer will remain on the table until Carl passes." Nate walked out the door without saying another word. Excerpted from The Book of Accidents: A Novel by Chuck Wendig All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.