Thursday, April 21, 2011

Heart-Shaped Box, Joe Hill

I have to confess, I read around one third of this horror novel before putting it aside - permanently.  I was going to write about what a depraved book this was; how many suicides and senseless deaths were described in this book up to the point that I abandoned this read?  Lets see, I don't want to spoil this for you, but on the top of my head there is the bathtub suicide by razor, the accidental heroin OD, death by hanging, the snatched child never to be seen again, and the suicide of the mother of the guy who hung himself.  This book certainly horrifies me, and I have to wonder, why was this written?  What motivated the author to go into this dark place?  I'm not against a good scary ghost story, and have spent many a night reading Steven King novels, but if you want to read horror, I think that Dean Koontz or Neil Gaiman would be better choices, which is why I put a link to a great book (if you like the genre) by Gaiman, American Gods: A Novel.  This blog is about finding good books to read. 

I found nothing positive to hang onto in The Heart-Shaped Box and I started to wonder, who the heck published this?  Much to my surprise, it was a popular publisher.  This book was on the New York Times best seller list!  The Amazon reviews are good.  It received rave reviews and was even named book of the year by the Atlanta magazine.  This guy, Joe Hill, has won awards for his writing.  He is a good writer!

What does this mean?  I must ask myself, am I being narrow minded in my review?  Has society become depraved?  Is there something I'm missing here?

The main character, Jude, is a middle aged rock star (retired since his band members died, not counted in previously listed tragedys), who buys a dead man's suit advertised to ship with a ghost, from an on line auction. The suit arrives in a heart shaped box, and the horror begins. The only thing I can find nice about Jude is that he likes his dogs. I found this premise for a story very compelling, which is why I picked this up at the library.

Well, to close this, there are a few other things I discovered when searching the web for more information.  Heart-Shaped Box is a song, good music, depraved lyrics, by the American grunge band Nirvana, written by vocalist and guitarist Kurt Cobain.  Cobain committed suicide in 1994, and though I will not presume to guess that this could possibly have anything to do with ideas behind this book, it certainly is a coincidence.   The story is well written (at least one third of the way through), but I do not recommend this for a book club read, nor for anyone dealing with depression, nor really anyone.  It would be bad for your soul.


  1. There are any number of authors who (even if they write acceptable English) get into the category of popularity. Doesn't mean we all have to like them, that's for sure.

  2. I really wonder how many awards for books are based on the business of selling books. I was quite shocked that this book was so well acknowledged. There is a real place in the web world for people who aren't paid to review books, yet review books. Obviously, following the NY Times Best Selling list is not a good way to find good read.

  3. It probably sold because it contains the words "Curt Cobain." I think I'll wait for the Cliff Notes.

  4. I am not a great reader but John gave me a kindle for Christmas and Shawn reccomended a book she thought I would like and did read it mostly on the plane back to Fl. am now reading 365Ways to drive ? Crazy" but not very fast! Perhaps I'll finish it on the flight up to Boston on the 10th Maybe I should join a club? Ralph

  5. Ralph, I do think you should join a book club! Let me know what your favorite genre is, let me know about your size of book, and I will recommend something great! Katherine.