The Book of Accidents

The Book of Accidents – Chuck Wendig

Following the death of his estranged father, Nate Graves moves his family, wife Maddie and son Oliver, into his childhood home in rural Pennsylvania.  Maddie believes this to be the right move given that their son – an intense empath – is struggling with urban life.  However, it’s more an “out of the frying pan and into the fire” situation as their lives become far worse after settling in than they were before.

Nate begins to see strange things.  His deceased father often appears out of thin air, a disheveled man appears hiding outside his home and an owl seemingly carved out of wood hangs around his home.  Nate isn’t the only one having a hard time adjusting.  Maddie begins blacking out during her sculpting sessions as her creations come to life and Oliver, while making friends in his new school, befriends an older boy named Jake who is hellbent on coming between Oliver and his father.

There’s just so damn much going on here.  You have the prologue that sets up the mystery of why convicted killer Edmund Reece disappeared while sitting in an electric chair, seconds before his death.  From there, Wendig presses his foot on the gas and never lets up.  The Book of Accidents is a story filled with equal parts horror and science fiction elements.  There are genuinely unsettling scenes built on the backs of mythology and dark magic as the demons come out to play.  

I’ve been a fan of Wendig for a few years now since I stumbled across his Miriam Black series of books.  While Chuck crafts these wildly original worlds filled with memorable characters and creepy moments, it’s his writing that keeps me coming back.  It feels alive in a way I do not typically see from many other authors.  It feels electric and engaging.  Given that I polished this nearly six hundred page book off in not quite four days, how else can you explain it?

There’s so much that I want to talk about here, but it’s best if I leave you a little in the dark and allow the story to unfold around you.  While you could certainly sell the novel on the horror and supernatural elements, you cannot overlook the themes of both the good and bad elements of family life.  There is the unbreakable bond between husband and wife as well as between parent and child.  There is also the tragedy of hereditary abuse and the constant internal battle between both a hopeful and cynical world-view.  The Book of Accidents works so well because over the course of five hundred plus pages, you come to identify with these characters and you feel like the stakes really matter – that there’s a good chance things aren’t going to work out and it’s heartbreaking.

I know it’s an over-used cliché, but it felt like the lost plot to a great Stephen King novel.  It gives off vibes of King’s last truly great (to-date) novel, Revival, as well as Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter.  Chuck Wendig’s The Book of Accidents jitters on the page with a palpable electricity and tension that builds and builds within a story that is both fascinating and unnerving.  Do not sleep on this one.  I truly think it’s Chuck’s best work yet.

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