Ambitious novel considers insidious nature of evil

Darrell
Darrell Squires
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"A Good and Happy Child" by Justin Evans was one of the most interesting new novels I read in 2007.

It gives new meaning to the expression about struggling with one's "demons".

In the novel, a disturbed 30-year-old husband and father, George Davies, tries to come to final terms with his troubled, harrowing childhood - filled with traumas and horrors relating to demonic possession.

Food for Thought - "A Good and Happy Child" by Justin Evans was one of the most interesting new novels I read in 2007.

It gives new meaning to the expression about struggling with one's "demons".

In the novel, a disturbed 30-year-old husband and father, George Davies, tries to come to final terms with his troubled, harrowing childhood - filled with traumas and horrors relating to demonic possession.

As the story begins, George knows only that something is preventing him from being able to hold his newborn son.

All too aware that it is wrong not to want to, he simply can't stand to do what should come naturally as breathing.

And because they are so awful, George does what any sane person would do - would have to do with his repressed childhood memories. He stores them away mentally so that he has "no conscious ... current memory" of what took place.

But this changes, of course, as George seeks help and guidance from a psychiatrist and he is thrust into the past. What were the exact circumstances under which George's father Paul, a brilliant but disgraced academic over his work in the disreputable field of religious mysticism, died in Honduras? And who is this boy who describes himself to George as his Friend, and is visible only to him? What is the meaning of the increasingly disturbing visions George's Friend keeps showing him?

In this novel, as in others about demonology and demon-possession, one of the central problems is whether evil, the devil, and demons exist as an actual force - or whether the torments of the possessed have a medical explanation as a deep form of psychosis.

Evans's novel brings this battle between science and faith, rationalism and "superstition," to the forefront as George's increasingly erratic behaviour brings him up against medical authorities, but also attracts the attention of family friends sympathetic to Paul's esoteric studies - a group of believers in Heaven and hell who want to rescue George.

To them, his escalating psychological and physical troubles are unmistakable signs of possession, and they want to rescue him from medical authorities who wield powers of institutionalization equal to legal powers of arrest.

Evans deftly marks the labyrinthine wards of clinical treatment, and places them in stark contrast with scenes of exorcisms as the boy becomes ever more volatile and his Friend ever more diabolical. This is an edgy, compelling read - more unnerving than scary.

In short, it gets under your skin in a very effective way.

Get this book through your nearest public library.

Darrell Squires is assistant manager of Public Information and Library Resources Board, West Newfoundland-Labrador division

Geographic location: Honduras

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