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 past. 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 escaped his abusive home life with a daily dose of close friends. A group of kids very like him with their own problems, although most were not as dire as his own. Yet it was here that he felt the comfort and camaraderie as did his friends. To seal their adventures and to form a stronger bond they formed the group and named themselves the Black Machetes. The bond became everything, and home was just a painful memory only to become a nightmare as the day was done and reality intruded.
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 had inadvertently witnessed. He even had the audacity of sneaking into the cabin and rescuing the new born baby that became of result of the torture and eventual killing of this young woman. Leaving the new baby at the hospital entrance, he knew that he had to get away—and now. Yet Ben was very sure there was more, many young women were disappearing and he felt his Stepfather might well be a part of the problem. Without proof he knew his only safety was in leaving everything he knew and disappearing before he too disappeared 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 knew immediately when he saw a soul in need of saving. Finding this youngster in need of hope and courage, he took him under his wing, and they began 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 he engendered by leaving became a palpable thing. Unbeknownst to himself he had also put his closest friends, The Black Machetes in jeopardy in his jump to freedom. Inexorably the past would follow him, could he survive the hit.
Howard has given 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 grow, 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.
This book was received free from the author, all opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.