Narrator: Kate Mulgrew
Victoria McQueen has a secret gift for finding things: a misplaced bracelet, a missing photograph, answers to unanswerable questions. On her Raleigh Tuff Burner bike, she makes her way to a rickety covered bridge that, within moments, takes her wherever she needs to go, whether it’s across Massachusetts or across the country.
Charles Talent Manx has a way with children. He likes to take them for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the NOS4A2 vanity plate. With his old car, he can slip right out of the everyday world, and onto the hidden roads that transport them to an astonishing – and terrifying – playground of amusements he calls “Christmasland.”
Then, one day, Vic goes looking for trouble—and finds Manx. That was a lifetime ago. Now Vic, the only kid to ever escape Manx’s unmitigated evil, is all grown up and desperate to forget. But Charlie Manx never stopped thinking about Victoria McQueen. He’s on the road again and he’s picked up a new passenger: Vic’s own son.
Publisher: William Morrow
Published: April 28th 2013
Mention of Child Molestation, Rape, Blood Depiction, Drug Abuse, Mutilation, Ableism, Animal Death, Mentions of Domestic Violence, Mentions of Child Negligence, Suicide, Self Harm
Let me make it known that I didn’t know who Kate Mulgrew was until I was perusing on Google as one does and accidentally found out she was on Orange is the New Black? Regardless, she did an amazing job on this one. Every character was distinctive, she managed to make this 20 hour book intriguing enough to keep my interest and get me through my work shifts.
“Christmas was almost four months in the rearview mirror, and there was something awful about Christmas music when it was nearly summer. It was like a clown in the rain, with his makeup running.”
Now, normal disclaimer here: I don’t normally read horror/thriller-esque books. They’re not my thing, but I also know I don’t exactly give them a chance. However, it was the spooky season when I started it at least which meant audiobooks and hype and recommendations. To be honest… it wasn’t bad. At all. I actually really enjoyed my listen. Also, had no idea this was Stephen King’s son. I have also not read any of King’s previous books, so the little nods to his works in here? Completely missed. Sorry.
Moving on: creepy vampire like man who takes *ehem kidnaps* children to his magical land of Christmas? A woman full of regrets trying to get her son back? Bridges that appear out of nowhere? Finding lost things? Adventure in the most fucked up way possible? YES. I AM INTRIGUED. Was I scared? No. But, that’s just a personal mishap that I struggle with and shall not be applied to my overall rating.
And listen– when I say fucked up… I mean it. I know this is an adult book with adult themes, but wow. Not the easiest listen with the topics being discussed sooooooo be kind to yourselves with this one friends.
Now, this book… this 20 hour, 700 page book… this was long and it didn’t have to be? I understand getting to know the characters and all, but it meanders a bit. It’s very repetitive: Vic stating I don’t believe, I’m just crazy, maybe it is real, repeat repeat repeat. And honestly this could have been a cute little 7-8 hour listen if not for the filler that felt unnecessary.
Yet considering again the length, I still have so many questions about the mechanism of this…? On how slicing into imaginative worlds work and in-scapes and the characters. I’m still a bit confused on what made Charles Manx and Bing the way they were and how Christmas-land even came to be and just… SO MANY QUESTIONS. I’m going to count that as a plus to how alluring this concept actually was.
“Was there any human urge more pitiful-or more intense- than wanting another chance at something?”
But as characters go, they were very interesting. And I really appreciated Vic. How messy she is. How imperfect and a bit broken she’s become. Given she’s the main character, I adore the viewpoint of a woman who has made one too many mistakes in life, recognizes it but still manages to fuck up a bit more yet overall cares deeply for those she lets into her squishy heart. I liked Vic. I rooted for Vic. She was a great character to follow.
Even so, the villains? May have stolen the show. Referencing the above paragraphs, I do have many inquiries. Charles Manx, the child murderer and Bing, the accomplice/rapist. Which, this may sound a bit messed up, but Bing just… I was just fascinated with him. Was his narration annoying? Yes. Absolutely. However, there was this warped innocence within him that yes, felt cartoonish at some points but overall had me wanting to know about him the most. We get a bit into his backstory, but damn. Give me a novella or something.
As for Mr. Manx… pure evil. There’s no grey area in him, just… pure evil. As a villain, I enjoyed his villainy, even if I didn’t feel connected to him. That’s the general issue: I didn’t connect with the characters. And if I started the read feeling for them, the book was so long and a bit tedious as it went along that I lost… said… feeling for them. There was this disconnect in which I wasn’t personally invested or anxious for Vic and her journey with saving her son. I wasn’t scared that she wouldn’t prevail, or that major consequences would take place. Especially as the book went along. The writing was well done enough to keep me invested and furthermore the character were engaging enough to keep my head in the story… but the story was echoing. Which sucks.
And I kind of hate that one of the more interesting parts of the book– Christmas-land, doesn’t actually make an appearance until the very end of the book. Even then, it was so very brief? Though I know that there is a novella featuring Christmas-land yes I will be reading that for sure I just… I want more and this book was sure as hell long enough to give me that.
“Already, though, she understood the difference between being a child and being an adult. The difference is when someone says he can keep the bad things away, a child believes him.”
I… I liked this. A lot. I may even recommend this. But, just know that this took me a while to get through… for a reason. In both good and bad ways. Yet, I would like to highlight one thing: the bridge literal and figuratively from childhood and adulthood, how that can shape a person into who they grow into, both bad and good… I appreciated it. Because Vic had some shitty adults in her life. Charles Manx had some shitty people in his life. Bing had some shitty people in his life. But the world isn’t built in one shade, people aren’t built in one shade. And that in and of itself is what made this read something I can genuinely tell people to go and give this a try.