Friday, December 30, 2022

Mongrels -- by Stephen Graham Jones -- The Last Review of 2022

Cover image courtesy of William Morrow

 I’m a late comer to the Stephen Graham Jones bandwagon, having gotten my first taste of his work with The Only Good Indians. I’m slowly expanding on his previous work, and Mongrels — well it's a gem of a Coming of Age horror novel. Jones puts so much heart and soul into his characters that I almost feel guilty for only rating it a four out of five little twinkly stars. But I have my reasons. We’ll get to those later.

This is the story of a criminal, a prisoner, a villager, a sheep, all rolled into one as the main character tells stories of his own life as a boy raised by his extended family of werewolves after his mother dies giving birth to him. His aunt, his uncle, his grandfather are all storytellers, all hustlers to some degree too because the werewolf life isn’t a pretty one…depending on which family member is telling the story. They scramble to live along the fringe of society, doing their best to blend in, except when they can’t. That doesn’t make them any less proud of their questionable roots, and the kid—well, his entire story is about seeing what his aunt and uncle go through while he wonders when it will hit him; if and when he will ever experience the change.

There are times he wants to be the wild wolf that his Uncle Darren represents, times when he understands why his Aunt Libby has her reservations. It’s really about growing up and learning from the family that raises you. Funny at times, heartbreaking at others. It's a book I definitely recommend reading.

My only real reservation is the nonlinear approach to the story. The boy is a storyteller. His stories comprise each chapter. He's as young as eight in some, as old as eighteen in others. But the stories bounce around, back and forth from age to age as the family moves from Texas to Georgia to Missouri to the Carolinas to Florida and back again, and it can get confusing. Therefore, the four. But it's a solid four, absolutely.

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