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Thursday, June 1, 2023

Throwback Thursday – Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill

note: I wrote this book review more than ten years ago for my old website. At the time I was new to Hill’s work but quickly became a fan.

So I'm back with another book review. This time I read Joe Hill's Heart Shaped Box. What we have here is an interesting ghost story. Jude is an aging rocker that collects all kinds of macabre stuff. When his assistant finds a haunted suit on an Internet auction site, he buys it for his collection. What he doesn't realize is that it is a setup. The ghost attached to it is out for some vengeance on Jude and anyone around him. This includes Jude's latest Goth stripper girlfriend Marybeth. The two of them end up taking the road trip from hell in an attempt to figure out how to dump the angry ghost that is doing it's best to destroy them.

I really dug this book. Ghost stories can be very entertaining, but normally are predictable. Heart Shaped Box Was a refreshing change from this tendency. The story starts off with some creepy stuff at Jude's home. The ghost pops up here and there scarring the heck out of him. But after the ghost almost succeeds Jude packs up Marybeth and gets the hell out of Dodge! Instead of some forced plot device that keeps them stuck in the house Hill let's his characters do what most of us would do, run away. 

But this isn't the only interesting twist to the plot. From the beginning of the haunting it seems that maybe Jude did deserve the vengeful spirit. Without ruining any of the plot let's just say that he was kind of a jerk to the ghost’s stepdaughter, Anna. But as the story unfolds the reader finds out, along with the characters, that there is more to the story. So much so that by the end of the book things have turned in an unexpected direction. 

Of course even the best plot setup can be ruined by flat characters. Our main characters of Jude and Marybeth are fleshed out well with the story. Right away we see that Jude has some issues but isn't a terrible guy just a flawed one. Not only does he feel guilty about what happened to Anna, but when things get dangerous, he tries to drive Marybeth away. Despite how he treats people he does care. There is a great bit with a used car salesman that is his way of showing his cares for her. And then we have the Marybeth character that is damaged goods as well. But again, even though she has issues she sticks by Jude no matter what happens. What the author has done is give us a love story between two damaged people being chased by a homicidal ghost. If I must read a love story, then this is the one I want to read.

In the end Heart Shaped Box is a really good read. I loved the story and all the unique places it goes. From the first page to the final one I was engrossed in the characters and how things were unfolding. I can't ask for more then that out of a book and I recommend that everyone check out this as well as Joe Hill's other books. I know I'm going to.


© Copyright 2023 John Shatzer

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