Confession: I had never read a John Saul novel until a co-worker named Kendall offered to swap books. He gave me SUFFER THE CHILDREN, which apparently was John’s debut novel as his writerly-self. (He had published approximately ten other books under a pen name of S. Steinberg prior to the 1977 debut.)
After reading the prologue, I almost stopped reading the story completely. It was hard to swallow reading about a young girl being molested and murdered by her father. I seriously wondered what the hell Kendall had given me! I like creepy stuff (ghosts, vampires, weird creatures, and whatnot)but not morbid things like this. Yet, I pushed myself to read. Kendall had listened to me rant about the things I like and the things I write, so I should trust his judgment. Right?
So as I kept reading and learned indeed there was a ghost, and boy was that ghost evil! But I had hope for those that came in contact with the creepy ghoul that possessed another child, but the end of the novel was shattering. (I won’t spoil.) The end was a bit gruesome and I’m more of a suggestive kind of gal than detailed with killings in my writings. And that’s how I prefer to read too.
Now, as a writer, I often hear my peers and beta’s say to stay in the main character’s voice. And this story…oh my gosh! After I had counted ELEVEN point of view’s from different characters, I stopped counting. It made my head hurt. Seriously! But was the story told well? Yes, yes it still was. I kept turning the page to find out what happened next. I had a clear sense of place, as though I was along side the characters. I wanted to shout out and say, “No, don’t listen to her!” John Saul pulled me into his story regardless of my frustrations, and I suppose this is why he is a New York Times Best Seller.
I look forward to reading a more recent John Saul novel to see if his style is the same. And thanks Kendall for sharing your read with me!
Writer and blogger of MG/YA fiction