Heart Shaped Box – A Review

I’m a proud member of Manchester Women’s Institute and actually run the sub-group for reading. We’re called ‘The Bookish Broads’ and once a month we meet for tea/coffee and cake and discuss the book selected from the previous month’s meeting. This month we’ll be discussing the book that was selected as part of the Halloween/Horror theme for the October meeting.

Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill.

Heart Shaped Box Joe Hill

I read Horns by Joe Hill last year and loved it. It was dark, humorous, tragic and kinda weird, which I liked. As soon as I posted that I was reading it on Facebook I had so many people telling me I just had to read Heart Shaped Box, so l went out, bought a copy, put the book on the shelf and never gave it another thought (ominous considering one of the chapters of the books only consists of the words ‘He put the box on the shelf, in the back of his closet and decided to stop thinking about it.’ Until recently that is, I put it forward as my suggestion and the lovely ladies of the Manchester WI selected it. I think we were all relived that it seemed less of a chore to read than Life after Life by Kate Atkinson.

I settled down one evening and was gripped from the word go. I’m something of a novice to the horror genre, with the exception of a couple of horror related novels, it’s not a genre I’m overly familiar with. But with Joe Hill being the son of horror writing legacy Stephen King, I should have known that this would be a cracking book, and I wasn’t disappointed. This isn’t something I have divulged in any previous blog posts but I have always had a fear of a certain type of ghost. The idea of ghosts in general don’t really bother me but anything that involves creepy old men in old suits or women in old fashioned black dresses really sends me reeling. Which is funny considering that I have read the book Woman in Black, seen the film and the theatrical adaptation, why do I do it to myself? I don’t know but I suppose that I like to feel ‘something’ I like to experience an emotion when I read something or watch something, and I can tell you Heart Shaped Box delivered plenty of those moments for me.

Judas Coyne is an ageing rock star who collects macabre things, when he is told that there is a haunted suit for sale on the internet he asks his assistant Danny to buy it. Little does he know that the suit is haunted by the ghost of a man named Craddock who is set on destroying Judas’ life, the reason? He blames Judas for the death of his step-daughter. The storyline is interesting enough but it’s the haunting imagery that Joe penned that really struck a chord with me.

‘In the moments that followed, Jude felt it was a matter of life and death not to make eye contact with the old man, to give no sign that he saw him.’

Moments like this, for me, perfectly capture the cold fear we all feel at some point. When I was a little girl I used to wake sometimes in the evening and would need to build up the courage to go to the bathroom in the dark, I’d be as quick as I could walking back to my room and would always have the sensation that someone was watching me, like Judas in this sentence, I always felt that it was always much safer if I never looked back and just climbed under the covers and squeezed my eyes shut. It’s that inexplicable fear that something just doesn’t feel right.

‘He smiled at Jude, showing crooked and stained teeth and his black tongue.’

As the book progresses the dead man, Craddock, grows more and more violent and controlling of Jude and his girlfriend Georgia. When the pair decide to get away from the house things get even creepier and weirder and it’s soon revealed that Craddock was a controlling and abusive man in life too. There’s a very human element to the story that deals with abuse and estranged relationships between families, which stops this book from falling short of being a little too cheesy at times, and adds some much needed realism. That being said there were aspects towards the latter part of the book that just seemed to not make any sense to me as the actions didn’t seem to fit in with the story as whole. Saying that it was an enjoyable read and full of imagery that had me genuinely shuddering at times, another great novel from Joe Hill.

Star Rating out of 5: 4

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‘He could see himself there, and the dead man standing beside him, hunched over, whispering in his ear.’

Happy reading fellow bookworms, let me know your thoughts if you have read this, or even if you plan to read it.

Georgina.

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