Little Boy Lost by T. M. Wright; Uninvited Books; 2011; 256 pgs; $16.95 US

Reading a T. M. Wright novel can be a chore for those who typically read mainstream horror.   His plots are often complicated, non linear, and embrace existential themes, as a result this usually leaves his endings somewhat open and subject to interpretation.  While his earlier works (such as Little Boy Lost) could be considered his most accessible, the more Wright published over the decades the more non-traditional his fiction became.  To the point where some readers had no idea what the hell he was writing about (Blue Canoe).  There’s no middle ground with Wright’s work, either you love him and actively seek out his back catalog, or you don’t.  I happen to side with those who are all too happy to scoff up every bit of fiction the man has published.

Little Boy Lost is one creepy book.  I can truthfully say that it is one of the most haunting and atmospheric books I think I’ve ever read.  From its first pages, a chill crept into my spine and settled there until the very last sentence.  Hell, even weeks after finishing Little Boy Lost, this book is still lurking around in my subconscious, waiting for a quiet moment to jump out and get me  to start replaying it in my mind once again.

The little boy lost of the title is Aaron, a young child who vanishes from the back seat of his father’s car as they were pulling into a parking space at the mall.  Aaron’s dad (Miles), and his brother (C.J.), are both in the car when he vanishes.  Panicked and confused, they begin to search for him, and even after help arrives, they still can’t find the boy.

It doesn’t take long for the police to suspect Miles of foul play, and then, as a precaution, putting C.J. in a foster home and forcing him to attend counseling.  We soon learn that Aaron wasn’t the only member of their family that had gone missing.  Years ago, Aaron’s mom had also vanished without a trace.

We discover during these counseling sessions that C.J. and Aaron are step brothers and that C.J.’s mother was brutally murdered during a home invasion.  Then, after a short time, his dad had remarried a woman named Marie and she had given birth to Aaron.  And it was Marie who had vanished a few years earlier after leaving for a trip to the local grocery store and was never found.

Much of the novel is told through C.J.’s point of view, usually during his counseling sessions.  It is during these sessions which start out with C.J. denying any knowledge of the cause of Aaron’s disappearance that eventually bring to light some vivid and some repressed memories of his family, and these memories lead right up to the seconds before Aaron vanished.  So, what starts out as a sad novel about a missing child, turns into a haunting tale of sexuality, dysfunctional family abuse, and demonism.   Yes, demonism.  It turns out that Marie was much more than she appears to have been.

Wright’s narrative style and pacing in this novel are brilliant.  He pulls the reader in by divulging the facts of Aaron’s disappearance in piecemeal fashion.  Wright gives us small tastes of what’s gone on before and what’s to come, and by doing so, Wright constantly leaves us hungering for more.

Viewpoints change often during the novel, as do timelines.  We could be in the present one moment watching a police interrogation of Miles.  And in the next moment we are in the distant past, again with Miles, only this time we are watching rituals performed by a primitive tribe to appease their God.

T. M. Wright has said that either you “get” his work or you don’t.  For those that do, there is a substantial reward in the reading as there are very few authors that can exploit the fear of the unknown as Wright does.  Wright’s work demands involvement from his readers, he wants to do more than just entertain us; he wants us to bring our own sensibility to his stories rather than approaching them passively.  And as a result we all might come away with a different perspective from his tales, but I think nothing more would please the author.

Little Boy Lost comes highly recommended.

Jun 30, 2011

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