A supernatural story.
This week’s book has some imaginative ideas that pulled me right in. I love a good magical or supernatural story, especially if there’s a bit of mystery involved. And I confess I grabbed this book without reading the blurb first. What can I say? Old (bad) habits die hard. So, without further ado, here is my breakdown. (Oh yeah. There will be affiliate links after this point that help support my blog.)
The Touch: A Supernatural Story, by Robert E. Flynn III, has some things really working for it, as I mentioned before. Told in the third person, the narrative alternates character focus in different chapters with clean transitions. And the opening chapters really set up a lot of questions. What is going on in the oncology ward? And is that boy a ghost or something? As the story progresses, the questions begin to grow (and are ultimately answered). However, a few issues interfere with the unspooling of this supernatural tale.
Verbal exchanges between the characters sometimes felt overly vague and stilted. Oftentimes characters would rush in and make on-the-nose statements about their supernatural experiences that seemed forced. Also, the characters range in age from children to an adult in her 60s. In addition to this, there are characters from different socioeconomic backgrounds and countries. However, most of the characters use similar diction, pacing, and expressions when they speak. This is especially noticeable with the children. In my opinion, the only character with a unique voice was the Realtor (who is a minor character).
A great deal of the story describes the main characters’ supernatural experiences as they wrestle with positive and negative emotions. Though sometimes the experience is described in clear terms with strong adjectives and similes, many times it is not. When we are told how the character feels instead of being immersed in the experience, it feels repetitious and dull. Why begin to ask why we are revisiting a concept which has not changed.
This is a relatively minor issue, but it did pull me out of the story for a bit. The first main character in the narrative is Alabama. She is set up as THE vessel for a supernatural mission, but it turns out her role is somewhat secondary. There is also the orphan, Josh. Initially, when Gabriel describes his supernatural experiences, Josh is surprised. However, later on the narrative treats Josh as one of the children who has also experienced the voice his whole life. This waffling over who is “chosen” and who is not is a bit confusing.
This book throws out slurs against mental illness right and left. And it propagates some potentially harmful stereotypes about autism. Now, I am by no means an expert on autism and have made my own mistakes with writing about the spectrum in the past. However, after listening to several autistic people discuss harmful representation, I believe this story may fall into that category. It clearly isn’t written with overt or malicious intent. But it does make some assumptions and generalizations about people with autism that aren’t necessarily true. (Feel free to learn more about autism at the Autism Self Advocacy Network.)
This book has a lot of potential. It does an excellent job of setting up intriguing questions and not answering them right away. There are some biblical threads, so keep that in mind. Overall, it’s pretty creative.
The Touch: A Supernatural Story
Rating: 3.8 out of 5 stars
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