Picador, 2005 (2004)
Read an Excerpt
Reviewed by Shannon Bigham
heo is a product of Chicago's child welfare system. Orphaned as a child, he fell into the
of the State of Illinois. Sadly but not surprisingly, Theo spent most of his childhood in various detention centers, psychiatric facilities, and
, where he was brutalized. He coped by abusing drugs and trying to fit in as best he could - which often meant just trying to survive on a daily basis. Neither love nor fun had a place in Theo's growing years, simply because he was the product of a failing child welfare system.
heo turned into an adult who craves pain - he wants others to inflict pain upon him. Essentially, he has masochistic tendencies that lead him to seek out sadists to fulfill his sexual desires. At the beginning of
, Theo is 36 years old and travels from California back to Chicago to look up an old girlfriend from his youth. After a brief meeting with the ex-girlfriend, the book progressively moves in reverse chronological order, so that we learn about Theo's childhood and his experiences in the custody of the state.
hough this is a grim novel, it is also interesting and edgy. At the beginning of the book, Theo's desire to be harmed by others seems perverse. However, after reading what Theo went through, I was able to see how his childhood shaped him. There is a substantial amount of
, drug abuse, physical abuse, and mental abuse throughout the book but none of it is gratuitous nor is its purpose to
is a provocative novel, Theo is a complex and likeable character and the story of his childhood is compelling - the author clearly has a sound grasp on the psychology of abuse. Though the book is not particularly suspenseful, due to Theo's story unfolding in reverse chronological order, it is a unique read, which I recommend to fans of literary fiction.
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