It doesn’t matter where you are from, everyone has a superstition that they practice, maybe unknowingly! When I sat down to write this post, I had to take a step back and think if I was participating in anything remotely resembling a superstition. I couldn’t think of any! So I turn to ye ole trusted Google and literally googled “Pennsylvania Dutch Superstitions” and lo and behold there it was, my superstition that comes but once a year; eating pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s Day for good luck! I grew up with this tradition, and it is extremely hard to step away from a tradition that has been ingrained in you since childhood. What happens if you break tradition? What happens if you step on a crack, does it really break your mother’s back? What happens when we ignore stories that are passed on generation after generation?
John had left the farm he grew up on as soon as he was able. Although he realized the importance of community, John wanted something more. He aspired for knowledge, and that knowledge led him to a teaching career at a school, and led him to his wife, Kat. Something in his blood continued to call him back every autumn in time for Gathering. As the couple packed for their upcoming trip, there were a few mixed emotions. John and Kat received a phone call that his grandfather, the Gaffer, had passed away, which would bring them to the Endlands earlier than anticipated.
Kat was excited to see her husband’s childhood home; the focal point of any story ever told. John’s father was now the only relative working the farm. Sure, he had help from the surrounding farms, but no one to continue on the family tradition. John has never seen his father looking so, old. That pull is tugging at him more than ever being back at home, surrounded by the familiar stories and traditions. What he thought he was missing in his life when he left, is actually what will make him pack up everything and move back.
As they prepare for the Gaffer’s funeral, John remembers why the task ahead, the Gathering, is so important for the valley. You see, farmers gathered their sheep from the Moors in October, rescuing the lambs out of the bog and move them to the valley. Many, many years ago, the devil skinned a lamb and pretended to be a part of the flock. From the flock he jumped from man to man, and house to house, wreaking havoc, and leaving nothing but troubles and death in his wake. Once he had his fill of torture, the devil would lay down to sleep.
Knowing his vices, the farmers would make lamb stew, serve blackberry wine, sing songs, and fiddle to wake the devil and draw him to the house in hopes he would overeat, get drunk on the wine, sing and dance his heart out, and fall asleep in front of the hearth. Once asleep, the farmers would gather their sheep from the Moors, rescuing the lambs out of the bog and move them to the valley. Once the sheep were safe, farmers would rouse the devil from his slumber and chase him back across the Moors, only to start the same tradition all over again in a year.
Knowing his father needs help, John decides to make a decision that will affect his family. While excited to see his childhood home, Kat is under the impression that once they have finished helping for the season, they will return home. Return to normal. Is tradition enough to make you return to your childhood? Is there a strong enough calling?
Andrew Michael Hurley is a new author for me. It’s always exciting when I pick up a new-to-me author. You are essentially giving said author a blank slate- there’s no comparing, there’s really nothing but anticipation! I read the back of this book, and it sounded so good! Immediately my brain went right to things like Blair Witch, maybe even a toned down Stephen King; something that starts out slow but then slowly builds into the horror story that makes you sleep with the lights on.
Going off the synopsis on the back of the book, I was gearing up for a slow burn. I kept waiting. . .and reading. . . and waiting. I was so frustrated with this book because the minute you make some progress, we go back to a story from the narrator’s past. . . or the Gaffer’s past. I’ve read plenty of books that bounce back and forth from past to present and back again, but this book really had nothing remotely linear to follow (kind of like most of my reviews here on the blog!). When you finally do start to make traction with the story, Hurley pulls the rug out from under you and abruptly ends the book.
If you’re married/dating , have you ever been to a family party on your spouse’s side? Ever feel like you were left on the outside of an inside joke? That’s exactly how I felt reading Devil’s Day. This particular book I could not personally relate to because of location/vocation. A lot of times I had to stop what I was reading to look up a particular word because I had NO clue what the author was saying.
So, if I didn’t care for this book, who on earth would I recommend this book for? Everyone! It’s okay to NOT LIKE a book. Ok, I didn’t care for this one. Would I read it again? Probably not. It’s an interesting read, that’s for sure. What I would find intriguing is if whether or not this story has any validation to it. Every now and then, I feel we as readers stay complacent in a certain genre, and then lose interest because we are just “genred” out. Step out of your comfort zone every now and then, and pick up something you normally wouldn’t. Judge a book by its cover and DON’T read the synopsis. Browse a DIFFERENT section of a bookstore first. Some of my favorite reads have been picked up on a whim.
“Devil’s Day” by Andrew Michael Hurley is available for pre-order and will officially hit shelves October 2nd. I was chosen by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to receive a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Given that fact, it has not altered my opinion on the book at all.