The Godsend

January 18, 2018 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

godsendThe Godsend by Bernard Taylor

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I hate reading an author’s works out of order. Aside from the fact that I lose seeing the author develop a style through his works, it also means I take a step backward, as few writers write their best books first. In the case of The Godsend, I found a fine book, full of claustrophobic horror, slowly-mounting tension, and a narrator who may or may not be reliable, but I also found a book that isn’t quite as good as Taylor’s follow-up, Sweetheart, Sweetheart.

The Godsend is about a couple with four young children who meet and befriend a pregnant woman they meet at a lake. During a visit to their home, she goes into labor and has her baby before stealing off in the middle of the night, leaving her daughter behind. Efforts to find her go nowhere, and after a length of time, the couple adopts the baby. Shortly thereafter, things begin to go downhill.

Published in 1976, The Godsend came out during the craze that followed The Exorcist, where every author was trying his or her hand at the possessed-child horror genre. This isn’t a genre with which I have a lot of familiarity, but The Godsend stands out by not being a typical possessed-child horror novel. It plays with the tropes of the genre, using the expectations of the reader to build tension. The story winds up being quieter than one would expect, based on its cover and summary, but it’s clear that it’s intentional.

Taylor suggests there’s something not right with their adopted daughter. She’s preternaturally smart, strong, and clever, which doesn’t just raise his alarms, but also raises the reader’s. The thing is, the story is told in the first person from the father’s perspective, so it’s hard to tell if we’re seeing what actually happened, or if we’re only seeing things through his own interpretation of events. The story begins with him telling us about their adopted daughter from some point in the future, so how he recalls the events could be skewed. The question is, if he isn’t a reliable narrator, then how do we interpret the terrible things that happen in this story?

The Godsend is unsettling, in that it forces you to ask uncomfortable questions. It uses ideas and themes that aren’t new to the genre, but Taylor combines them in a unique way, and tells a wildly readable, engaging story to boot. I can see why Sweetheart, Sweetheart is considered his best work, but it would be a disservice to The Godsend to overlook it by comparison.

Started: 10-27-2017
Finished: 10-31-2017

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