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January 2011

ACFW Bookclub: Darlington Woods by Michael Dellosso

Title: Darlington Woods
Author: Mike Dellosso
Publisher: Realms
Date: May 2010
ISBN: 978-1599799186
Genre: Suspense / Horror
Reviewed by: Nora St. Laurent

Editor’s note: Darlington Woods is the February ACFW Bookclub Selection of the Month. Read this book next month with the ACFW Bookclub. Click here to learn more!

When we shine our light inside the darkness, that darkness has to leave. It’s not welcome anymore.

I normally don’t read scary books like this one because I’m a chicken at heart! Darlington Woods is the ACFW Book Club pick for February 2011. I’m in the ACFW book club and leading the discussion, so I committed to reading this book. I’m so glad I read the author notes before reading the first chapter. These words gave me a glimpse into the author’s heart:

Let’s talk about monsters, shall we? Let’s just sit-down and spend a little time in conversation about things that go bump in the night and images that haunt us while we sleep peacefully in our beds … I believe in monsters. I’ve seen them, even battled them. And no, I assure you, I’m not crazy. The monsters of which I speak are around us every day and come in varying forms. They are called cancer […] Parkinson’s juvenile arthritis; abuse, murder and neglect. The web they spin, the wounds they carve, the hatchet they swing all go by the same name: fear.

Dellosso’s words drew me in and gave me a clue that I was about to read something heartfelt, unnerving, and unusual about fear and what it looks like. I was right. Here’s what character Rob Shields says, “When fear rules you, when it calls the shots, tells you what you can and cannot do, when it paralyzes you for days on end and robs you of the freedom others enjoy so carelessly, that’s crazy.”

Rob is a man on the edge. His wife has been murdered and his son Jimmy is missing. Rob is convinced Jimmy is in the town of Darlington. Rob starts to question his own sanity as he struggles to know where the nightmare stops and reality begins. When he stops at a restaurant and asks for directions to Darlington, people get fearful and nobody wants to talk. Then a mysterious man leaves a note with directions on Rob’s table. And Julie, his waitress, says she’d like to help him find his son—which seems odd, but everything about this town and adventure is odd. I did, however, enjoy Julie’s character and the comic relief she provides with lines like, “This is a problem I don’t think duct tape could solve.”

Dellosso writes using several points of view (Rob’s, Julie’s, Mary Jane’s, Jimmy’s, and Waxman’s), which moves the story along and creates quite a suspenseful and creepy tale of how fear gets a strong hold on the minds, emotions, and lives of a whole town. Switching between POVs helped me be able to read this scary story. I have to say that had the author stayed in little Jimmy’s POV, I wouldn’t have made it past chapter one. It would have felt too creepy and horrific to read a whole book through the boy’s eyes.

Dellosso’s wit, compassion, and effective story-telling through the many different POVs and how they wrestle with fear is intriguing, given that he went face-to-face with the cancer monster while writing this novel. I enjoyed the twists, turns, suspense, and the “a-ha” moments as truth is brought to light in the midst of darkness.

I also enjoyed rooting for Rob and Julie as they fight fear, look it in the face, and see there is hope of breaking fear’s chains and living free of its grip. God is always with us. When we shine our light inside the darkness (fear), that darkness has to leave. It’s not welcome anymore. I really enjoyed this faith aspect of the story. It’s strong, powerful, and oh so real! Treat yourself to Darlington Woods, an unusual novel that will have you looking at fear and monsters in a whole new light.

Editor’s note: Mike Dellosso is one of Afictionado’s feature writers. See his latest feature also in this issue.

ACFW Bookclub image: e.m.e. design & photography

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