Book: “The Book of Accidents” by Chuck Wendig
Publishing Info: Del Rey, July 2021
Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from NetGalley.
Book Description: A family returns to their hometown—and to the dark past that haunts them still—in this masterpiece of literary horror by the New York Times bestselling author of Wanderers.
Long ago, Nathan lived in a house in the country with his abusive father—and has never told his family what happened there.
Long ago, Maddie was a little girl making dolls in her bedroom when she saw something she shouldn’t have—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 Graves are married, and they have moved back to their hometown with their son, 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 battle: their love for one another.
Review: Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this novel!
After reading Chuck Wendig’s post-apocalyptic tome “Wanderers” back in 2019, I told myself that I wanted to give him another go, even if there were bits of that book that didn’t work for me so well. After all, while I had my issues with the book, I ultimately liked the writing style that Wendig has, as well as a few of the characters that he created. So when I found out that his next novel, “The Book of Accidents”, was being touted as straight horror with a creepy house on the cover, I was absolutely game to hop right back into one of his stories. Sure, I was a little nervous about having issues with the story overall again, but definitely was willing to take the risk. And hey, as it turns out, that risk mostly reaped rewards this time around!
“The Book of Accidents” is touted as a horror novel by a lot of people, and while it definitely has horror elements, I would say that it’s also a bit of a dark fantasy. These genres can happily coexist, and Wendig combines them into something pretty unique. While there are elements of a haunted house story to be sure, we also have magic, inter-dimensional timelines, and a little bit of cosmic horror to top it all off. It’s a lot to cover, thematically, and you can see that in the length of the novel. It’s a bit of a double edged sword, because while I do think that Wendig did a good job of balancing all of it, it also made the read to be a little long at times. But a slight case of bloat aside, I found “The Book of Accidents” to be rewarding in all of the marks that it hits, and it still felt like a fast read overall when I got past some of the laggy parts. Wendig has a good sense for intricate plotting and build up, and he lays out clues that come to fruition and make sense when joined together. He also knows how to create a creepy scene, be it because you know that someone has ulterior, dangerous motives, or because he is putting you in the shoes of someone who has experienced something that is unsettling, or simply unexplainable, even if it isn’t immediately horrifying. It was moments like these that hit hardest as I was reading, and I found them to be pretty darn effective.
But what I liked most about “The Book of Accidents” is the family at the heart of it, Nate, Maddie, and Oliver. I felt that Wendig really developed all of these characters with care and meticulousness, and I found myself adoring all of them in similar amounts, something that doesn’t happen too often for me in books with multiple perspectives. Sure, I could like all of them, but there would be one stand out, and yet Nate, Oliver, and Maddie all had sections and moments that I was always chomping at the bit to get to. Wendig makes you care for all of them, and while he makes sure that they all have their flaws or bits that are rough around the edges, it’s easy to relate to all three. It’s easy to invest in this family, so when they find themselves in grave danger, the stakes for all of them are high and you need to know what happens to them. There were supporting characters who also stood out (I’m thinking mostly of Fig, Nate’s partner in the Fish and Wildlife Department, who is no nonsense and really enjoyable), but the heart is definitely the Graves family. The villainous characters are a little less drawn out (I found Oliver’s friend/foe Jake in particular to be a little cartoony), but in the case of this book I wasn’t too put off by that if only because so many of the others were well done.
“The Book of Accidents” is enjoyable and creepy! It’s a great choice if you are looking for horror with some kind of unique elements to the genre. Chuck Wendig has officially landed on my ‘gotta read what he comes out with next’ list with this one.
Rating 8: An entertaining horror/dark fantasy novel with enjoyable characters, “The Book of Accidents” is a quick read with some great unsettling scares.