Tuesday, July 30, 2013
A Density of Souls by Christopher Rice
As children, Meredith, Brandon, Greg, and Stephen are childhood friends. Then high school happens. Meredith changes into a "mean girl", Brandon and Greg become star athletes, resorting to bullying to gain more attention. Stephen doesn't really change; for Meredith, Brandon and Greg, that's a real problem because Stephen is gay. Being gay makes Stephen different, it makes him a target.
The parents of Meredith, Brandon, Greg, and Stephen have all got their own problems. Meredith's parents' marriage is failing, crumbling apart. Greg's parents ares hiding the spousal abuse. Brandon's parents are hiding mental illnesses and extramarital affairs behind the pretty facade of their lifestyle. Stephen's mom, a grieving widow, is terrified of losing her son. All the while, the endless and unforgiving cycles of domestic violence, alcohol abuse, and self loathing take its toll on the kids...not that they can take the time to notice.
Then one night, full of multiple tragedies, everything changes again. A community is left bereaved and confused, and everyone is wondering what really happened on the night it all went to hell.
Right away, I'm going to say, you don't need to be homosexual to understand this book. Speaking as someone who's been the target of bullying, I can honestly say you only need to understand what its like to be different, to be maliciously singled out for not being just like everyone else. At risk of being "jock-ist" I do think there are some things the popular kids can't understand: The long lasting power of a bully.
This story is powerful because it's emotionally raw. Christopher Rice took a bunch of wounded characters and let them bleed into his pages. People in real life are rarely this honest with themselves, and it's both beautiful and frightening to see the lies people--albeit fictional ones-- construct for themselves, and see those lies fall apart to reveal the truth.
This isn't scary in the traditional sense, I don't think CR set out to write a horror...But its still scary because a lot of events that happen in this story are happening in the world today. Bullying leading to suicidal children, bigotry leading to terrorism, the overwhelming power of mother nature, and now the legitimacy of same-sex couples. This is a story about hate and love and what really happened that night. Its about fighting for who you are and having the right to live. It's about bad decision and how those decisions can change an entire community or just a family.