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A Good and Happy Child

picture of book cover

There’s a lot to be said for books that play on the fears of having a child: who hasn’t wondered if their child, instead of being “good and happy” would end up evil?
But that theme is best done in a book like We Need to Talk About Kevin tie-in: A Novel (P.S.) , versus A Good and Happy Child: A Novel , which is literally exploring demonic possession. It starts off strong, with 30-year-old George visiting a shrink because he’s unable to hold his child. In his memories, George begins to explore why his father died under mysterious circumstances.  Why did his mother, for example,  remarry so quickly after his father’s death? Why does George have visions? He visits his father’s friends and colleagues to find answers, and for a while it’s eerie and holds your interest, especially as George talks with his therapist. You eagerly await the answers and end up going "whaa?" For a while you wonder if you’re missing the larger metaphor and then you realize, no, you are actually supposed to believe a woman twists into the shape of a snake because she’s possessed. It’s unclear whether Evans wrote himself into a corner and thought “well, the Devil can explain a lot” or whether he set out to make a murder mystery in which Satan is the culprit. I prefer my Satan in the form of Jim Rash in Community , but to each his own I suppose.
I can sustain suspension of disbelief for a lot, ranging from vampires to everything working out for a crazy shopaholic. I can even get behind an exorcism now and then. But in the end, I prefer my evil in more subtle forms, from the white supremacists in The Help to polio in Nemesis. Evans creates vivid descriptions, but in the end you feel like you’ve been taking on an unpleasant and unfulfilling ride.