The Book of Accidents Cements Chuck Wendig’s Status as a Master of Horror

This book has two fucking prologues. Two. You may just want to stand back a few feet from this review, because it might get a little cussy and I tend to spit when I’m excited. Also, wild hand gesturing; flailing. Where were we?

Two. Fucking. Prologues.

And do you remember Mick LaSalle’s movie reviews in the San Francisco Chronicle? (I’m sorry if he’s actually still doing those, I don’t live in Cali anymore so I don’t get the SF Chron-Chron, as we called it.) There was always this little cartoon graphic that accompanied his reviews. For the movies that LaSalle really enjoyed, this was the graphic:

And that was me after the first prologue. I jumped out of my seat and stood on it and clapped like a maniac, just like the little bald man in the cartoon. Why? Because Wendig brought it. He brought in the first prologue. 

Brought what, Sadie?

THE HORROR. The Book of Accidents is a horror novel. Some reviews might be using other genre labels–mystery, thriller, science fiction, dark fantasy–but make no mistake, Mother Horror is claiming this book as one of her own. This is straight-up, unadulterated, supernatural, paranormal, spooky, eerie, HORROR.

This isn’t Wendig’s first foray into the dark genre. His Miriam Black series (of which I am a massive fan) is also unadulterated, supernatural, paranormal, creepy, fucked-up, spooky urban horror. I claim that series for the horror genre too. And then there’s Wanderers. Folks, let’s call it what it is: Chuck Wendig is a horror writer.

The Book of Accidents is a chunky, meaty, time-travelish, family-centric, horrific, generationally profound, THING. At first, Wendig lights up all those mechanisms in your brain that are responsible for following the plot and retaining information. 

It’s tempting to start trying to “figure things out” early on, but after reading the whole book and then going back and re-reading portions of it for this review, my suggestion is to take information as it comes and tuck it away for later. Wendig intentionally rolls the story out layer by layer, and there’s no competition between readers for being the first to “see it coming.”

So relax and settle in with the family unit at the core of this novel. Their love for one another is the driving force behind the entire storyline. Maddie, Nate, and Oliver. I feel like I need one of those graphic t-shirts where the names of the characters are listed down the side right over your heart. Because that’s where they ultimately take up residence: right there in your heart, where you’re all squishy and vulnerable.

Maddie, the artist.

Nate, the good guy.

Oliver, the neuro-diverse empath.

Nate moves his family into his childhood home and almost immediately, things begin to change. Some of the changes are just the normal things people would experience living in their hometown after being away for a while. But some of the changes are unsettling and mysterious.

As Nate and Maddie grapple with their individual and personal hauntings from their past traumas, their son, Oliver makes an unusual new friend.

As the underlying darkness begins to grow stronger and stronger, each member of the family encounters this strange, powerful magic in different ways until it gathers them together in an epic life-or-death battle.

Through it all, the reader is right there with them, helplessly and hopelessly invested. As I read, I tried to protect my brain from fear as much as I tried to protect my heart from being crushed. Wendig does not hold anything back. He pushes this family’s limits to the breaking point. It absolutely took my breath away. There were times where I was secretly whispering threats to Chuck as I read: “Oooooh, you better not let that happen” or “Damn it, Wendig if you do this, I will NEVER forgive you.”

In the end, the destination was so worth the harrowing journey. Every worry, every heart-pounding moment, every hitch in my chest, and every swear word uttered…

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is up for being emotionally pulled through the wringer. I promise you won’t regret it.


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