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Review: Suffer the Children

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Product Details

         Paperback: 384 pages

        Publisher: Dell (July 1, 1989)

        Language: English

        ISBN-10: 044018293X

        ISBN-13: 978-0440182931

 

What the publishers say:

 

One hundred years ago in Port Arbello a pretty little girl began to scream. And struggle. And die. No one heard. No one saw. Just one man whose guilty heart burst in pain as he dashed himself to death in the sea. Now something peculiar is happening in Port Arbello. The children are disappearing, one by one. An evil history is repeating itself. And one strange, terrified child has ended her silence with a scream that began a hundred years ago.

 

What I say:

 

The story revolves around the Conger family and the legend/curse that has shadowed their clan for 100 years.

 

Jack is the editor of the local small time newspaper while his wife, Rose, is the local up-and-coming hotshot in the real estate world. They have two daughters. Elizabeth is their oldest and is a godsend. She is calm, intelligent and extremely helpful on the exterior, but there’s a simmering rage and unresolved issues not far below the surface. Sarah is their youngest.

 

A year ago, in a drunken rage, Jack took his youngest daughter into the woods and beat her mercilessly, only just managing to restrain himself from raping and killing her in a repeat of his ancestors, so long ago.

 

Sarah is left mute and detached from the incident. Her only form of conversation is the occasional hysterical outburst. Elizabeth is the only one able to calm her and has taken on the role of her sister’s mother.

 

Rose has guilt about her inability to take care of Sarah but is grateful to Elizabeth for stepping in. She has other issues to deal with. Her and Jack are not having a good time of it. The Conger fortune has gone, and since the incident with Sarah, Jack has had more personal problems. Both parents are frustrated emotionally and physically, and are coming to a breaking point.

 

Add to this volatile mix the curse by a neglected young child with vengeance that has built for over a hundred years. Jacks great-great-grandfather had done a similar thing to his daughter as Jack had done to Sarah, except he couldn’t restrain himself. 100 years ago, his ancestor, also named Jack, had taken his daughter, named Beth, into the very same woods and raped and murdered her, hiding her body in secret cave.

 

Now Beth has become friends with Elizabeth and has decided it’s time for vengeance on Port Abello and the Congers.

 

Saul manages to supply a vivid tale in both environment and emotion. His descriptive ability is brilliant while he portrays an everyday family and their problems exceptionally well.

 

But his style jumped out at me. He switches the POV character without concern for the rules of writing. He may begin a sentence by discussing one characters thoughts and actions but flows effortlessly into another character’s point of view before sentence end.

 

In one sequence where a phone call is depicted, we begin in Rose Conger’s POV and then seem to fly down the telephone lines to end up in the mother of another missing child’s POV. At the end of the conversation, we are snapped back to Rose and a very omnipotent POV. Mostly this flow allows the reader to move between characters freely but occasionally it is painfully obvious and confusing, jolting the reader from the story.

 

The language, particularly the descriptive language between dialogue comes across as stilted in many instances. The slipping in of unnecessary long or unusual words, the lack of contractions and painstaking way every detail is relayed to the reader becomes difficult to read.

 

However, in the end, it is a story definitely worth reading.

 

It has been over 20 years since I first read this book. I was enthralled and scared during and after. I’m not scared anymore but the tale still has the ability to draw me in.

 

A highly recommended book, particularly for newer horror writers.