Cemetery Girl

      Cemetery Girl - David Bell  5/5 stars

      David Bell's debut novel is a dark disturbing tale that goes places that most novels won't go because they want to create this warm fuzzy feeling that leaves readers weeping and running off to their book clubs demanding that this be their next read. Let's be honest here and admit that the world is a messed up place so why should we read a novel that presents the dark side of human nature? Why should we read Cemetery Girl? The answer is simple. It's as close to reality as you're going to get in popular fiction. We've read the stories about kidnapped kids and everyone lives happily ever after. What if they don't? What if some writer decided to tackle the grim reality of what could happen?

      Bell's novel is full of flawed characters. The parents are divided and on the verge of divorce and it's even hinted at that the wife is having an affair with the pastor. The father refuses to let go which if you're a father you can clearly relate. This is your child you never give up and move on. There's also Buster who is a really shady character with a criminal past. I truly detested Abby and hoped that at some point that she'd get hit by a bus or just go away. Let me be honest and say it; she's a cunt. She clings to her religion like a life raft and decides that after four years it's time to move on and they even have a bullshit memorial for her complete with a headstone.

     Then Caitlin returns and you expect to get to have some feels and you do for a minute but here's where Bell really sticks the knife in our back and the novel just gets even darker. This is where Bell truly shines as a writer. He refuses to give us our heart warming family hug and we see that things aren't going to go as well as we hoped. Cemetery Girl is not an easy book to read and the actions of the characters do in fact seemed flawed but here's the thing. You have to take away the rational thoughts and place yourself in Tom's shoes. Here's a father who has finally gotten his daughter back after four years and the homecoming he envisioned is not happening. His daughter is in love with her kidnapper and wants to return to him.

       It sounds crazy, I know but if you're a parent you can see yourself as Tom. You can see your marriage imploding and your daughter who you failed to protect is now a stranger. These events seem completely nuts but again, this is not your typical aw shucks we got the feels and everyone is so happy. Not every story has a happy ending and Bell is not about to trick us into thinking that everything worked out fine. Caitlin is home so now the marriage is back on track and we can go back to being a happy family. You're not reading that type of book and as a father I can see myself doing exactly what Tom did. As a father you want to know what happened to your daughter. It's a question that would eat at you and you would do anything to have the answers. This is a powerful novel and one that doesn't try and coddle us and tell us that everything is going to be fine. Bell has given us a story that you will either love or hate. There's no middle ground and I think Bell knew that as he was writing it. He was channeling raw emotion and that sometimes clouds our judgement and makes us react in ways that seem almost idiotic to outsiders.

      For a debut he picked a controversial topic but one he handled extremely well, He could have approached this like every other writer and given us the same story that we've read a hundred times. There's no meat left on those bones so Bell went off in search of a fresh prospective and one that tackles real grief and a real life what if  by not playing it safe. Cemetery Girl is shocking and yes, even disturbing. None of the characters behave the way we expect them too and that's okay. Everyone is going to react to this differently which is what's supposed to happen. It's a truly compelling read and for a debut it's really damn good. This is one writer I plan on reading more from and hope it matches the strength and honesty of Cemetery Girl.