We often hear how our young years are the formative years, and yet many have a youth of distress and horror and must delve and find deep within themselves the strength to move up and overcome the pain of their experience. At the same time, others are not so able to find the inner resistance and continue on a path that was not their own choosing in the beginning.
In Black Machetes by Ryan K. Howard, we follow the life and exploits of Benjamin Wilder, a kid who escapes his abusive home life with a daily dose of close friends — a group of kids very like him with their own problems, although most are not as dire as his own. Yet it is here that he feels the comfort and camaraderie as did his friends. To seal their adventures and to form a stronger bond they form the group and name themselves the Black Machetes. The bond becomes everything, and home is just a painful memory — only to become a nightmare as the day is done and reality intrudes.
After one such painful reality Benjamin finds the strength to run away. His stepfather, known as Rabid Dog, and his friend have been capable of some horrible and heinous things including a rape which Ben inadvertently witnesses. He even has the audacity to sneak into the cabin and rescue the murdered young woman’s new born baby. Leaving the new baby at the hospital entrance, he knows that he has to get away — and now. Yet Ben is very sure there are more, many young women are disappearing and his stepfather might well be a part of the problem. Without proof he knows his only safety is in leaving everything he knew and disappearing before he too disappears in another way.
Finding himself in a small town, appropriately named Hope, he stumbles onto the right man who seems to understand his fear. Morgan River had seen a lot of things in his time on earth and he knows immediately when he sees a soul in need of saving. Finding this youngster in need of hope and courage, he takes him under his wing, and they begin an unlikely family, but family all the same. Soon father and son in the eyes of all that matters, it appears as though finally, all would be right with the world again.
Yet the past can never be truly extinguished, and the anger and rage Ben has engendered by his leaving becomes a palpable thing. Unbeknownst to himself he has also put his closest friends, The Black Machetes in jeopardy in his jump to freedom. Inexorably the past will follow him.
Howard has giving us a suspense filled story of possibilities and change. His characterizations of the protagonists are both horror filled and often desperate. Yet there is a discipline to the danger and madness that permeates and holds. As Benjamin grows, learns and evolves, we are with him every step of the way. We hurt for his friends and his memories, and begin to take his problems on as personally as though they were our own. It is difficult to separate Ben into the two very differing lives that shape him and yet they are why he is who he is. The timeline and continued intrusion of Rabid Dog’s exploits, creates a chill as you wonder where it will all go wrong.
If you like suspense, romance and friendship stories, you will find this a very satisfying read with a chill of terror that occasionally rears its head.
This would be a great find for a book club or reading group, with numerous issues of the day to discuss.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00KJWTJ1A]