Review: Sour Candy by Kealan Patrick Burke

Sour Candy

Kealan Patrick Burke

At first glance, Phil Pendleton and his son Adam are just an ordinary father and son, no different from any other. They take walks in the park together, visit county fairs, museums, and zoos, and eat together overlooking the lake. Some might say the father is a little too accommodating given the lack of discipline when the child loses his temper in public. Some might say he spoils his son by allowing him to set his own bedtimes and eat candy whenever he wants. Some might say that such leniency is starting to take its toll on the father, given how his health has declined.

What no one knows is that Phil is a prisoner, and that up until a few weeks ago and a chance encounter at a grocery store, he had never seen the child before in his life.

Publisher: CreateSpace Publishing

Published: November 13, 2015

Blood Depiction, Gore, Body Horror, Attempted Murder, Suicide

“Four months to the day he first encountered the boy at Walmart, the last of Phil Pendleton’s teeth fell out.” 

I don’t generally read books about creepy kids. I mean, I don’t watch movies/shows about them eitherit’s a bit too corny for me? Yet, with a summary like that it made me want to try something new. And man, I had a good time.

It’s universally acknowledged that taking candy from strangers is a no-no… well I guess Phil Pendleton didn’t catch the memo when he interacts with an unruly child and his mother in a Walmart. It’s all fun and games until after a car accident you find yourself saddled with a son that you’ve never had… and there’s no convincing the masses.

The strangeness of this novella builds throughout this short read and I don’t know if it’s because everything is so compacted into 84 pages, but it’s done really well. The way things are fleshed out, nothing felt rushed or skimmed over. Even when things felt convenient plot wise, Burke gave us a self aware character who thinks that it’s just so funny that things are falling into place the way they are and we as the reader come to learn its all part of the plan.

And maybe I’m just a messed up person, but I found humor in how gaslit Phil was? He’s just an ordinary man who, with a decent job, a girlfriend he really likes, who doesn’t wants kids and he knows this kid ain’t his stop trying to tell him otherwise dammit. To be fair, the gaslighting didn’t work on me as a reader: the attempt to mind trick me into thinking did he actually go crazy and this is genuinely his kid or is this all a ruse really didn’t hit. Maybe if the foundation of our main character was set up as an unreliable narrator or something, maybe it would be more or a mind fuck, you know?

“Because despite the torture he’d been put through, the pain and loss he did not believe he had done anything to deserve, he had tried to be a decent person, tried to stay within the confines of morality. And all it had gotten him was more suffering.” 

Maybe its a deeper message on parenthood– single parenting to be exact and how draining it can be. Maybe it’s about sacrifice and mundanity. Or maybe it was just weird. Who knows.

I think in general, on paper this book was anxiety inducing and dread on dread on dread, but personally? If anything I was more intrigued and less scared. But, I had a really good time with this one and I can see myself rereading it if I want a good, weird little read.

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