Wow. This was haunting.
Well-written, atmospheric, intense — a book that will pick you up, drop you on your ass, and then reach out a hand to help you back up.
In Hurt People, the reader is thrust down into the mind, albeit the very highly functioning mind, of a young boy.
The word atmospheric seems very appropriate here — the setting is a slow, sleepy summer in Kansas, just down the road from Leavenworth Prison. But this summer is simmering with something sinister on the edges. The narrator and his brother spend their time ignoring their mother’s rules, learning pool tricks with a new friend, and watching bad horror movies with their dad, but there is so much more happening on the periphery, and we glimpse it by bits and pieces, tinged with childish imagination. The bond between the brothers is strong, but it is tested greatly when a large secret they share between them must be told.
I put this on my suspense shelf, though that isn’t quite right. There is an underlying tension, but it’s subtle — seen through the mind of our young narrator. This narrator’s mind is fascinating — equal parts razor sharp and whimsical, and Smith really captures the essence of how children think (or at least how I think they probably think).
My only complaint:
This is a slooooow read, especially in the first half. The writing is very good though, so if you have time to spend sinking into it, it’s well worth it.
I would recommend it for people who enjoy literary fiction; slow, simmering suspense; examination of family dynamics; and the narrative perspective of highly intelligent children.
Thanks to NetGalley and Farrar, Straus and Giroux for my review copy.