Hello everyone! Today I will be participating in the blog tour for Break the Bodies, Haunt the Bones by Micah Dean Hicks! Besides a review from me, this post will also feature an interview with the author and a giveaway for three copies of this book, so stay tuned!
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Swine Hill was full of the dead. Their ghosts were thickest near the abandoned downtown, where so many of the town’s hopes had died generation by generation. They lingered in the places that mattered to them, and people avoided those streets, locked those doors, stopped going into those rooms . . . They could hurt you. Worse, they could change you.
Jane is haunted. Since she was a child, she has carried a ghost girl that feeds on the secrets and fears of everyone around her, whispering to Jane what they are thinking and feeling, even when she doesn’t want to know. Henry, Jane’s brother, is ridden by a genius ghost that forces him to build strange and dangerous machines. Their mother is possessed by a lonely spirit that burns anyone she touches. In Swine Hill, a place of defeat and depletion, there are more dead than living.
When new arrivals begin scoring precious jobs at the last factory in town, both the living and the dead are furious. This insult on the end of a long economic decline sparks a conflagration. Buffeted by rage on all sides, Jane must find a way to save her haunted family and escape the town before it kills them.
AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | BOOK DEPOSITORY
Praise for BREAK THE BODIES, HAUNT THE BONES:
“A tour-de-force of the imagination. Hicks has created a world that is beautifully and brutally surreal and yet, at the same time, BREAK THE BODIES, HAUNT THE BONES stands as a hyper-realistic psychological portrait of the death of the American factory town. My own identity as an American was disturbed and changed by this novel; some dormant understanding was shaken awake. This is a stunning and profound debut.” ―Julianna Baggott, bestselling author of New York Times Notable Book Pure
“Hicks’ debut novel is a thoughtful tour of the rotted and haunted heart of America. Highly recommended.” ―Jeremiah Tolbert, Shirley Jackson Award-nominated author
“I can’t stop thinking about this book. It’s a haunting story that burrows under your skin like an insect laying eggs that hatch within you in the middle of the night. Hicks’ mesmerizing imagery kept me turning the pages and asking myself ‘How is this book happening? What sort of literary witchcraft am I witnessing?’” ―Maurice Broaddus, author of Buffalo Soldier and The Usual Suspects
“BREAK THE BODIES, HAUNT THE BONES is a breathless wonder of a debut novel… Hicks is a magician with words and has written a spellbinding, haunting and necessary book.” ―Anne Valente, author of Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down
“Hicks has crafted a haunting story with multi-generational appeal, where the very real horror of poverty meets supernatural horror, and social issues like xenophobia, racism and economic anxiety are addressed organically through allegory and gripping storytelling.” ―Chris L. Terry, author of Black Card and Zero Fade
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Micah Dean Hicks is the author of the novel Break the Bodies, Haunt the Bones. He is also the author of Electricity and Other Dreams, a collection of dark fairy tales and bizarre fables. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Kenyon Review, and elsewhere. Hicks grew up in rural southwest Arkansas and now lives in Orlando. He teaches creative writing at the University of Central Florida.
PHOTO CREDIT: SCOT LERNER 2018
Truly unlike anything I have ever read before, Break the Bodies, Haunt the Bones is rhythmic in its prose and packed with sophistication, a book that utterly demands to be read. From the first page to the last, readers will be unable to put down this book both because of the mesmerizing story and the unspoken truths that it contains.
One of the main parts of the book that promoted its overall theme was its setting. Taking place in the town of Swine Hill, readers will immediately be greeted by a setting that matches its story almost perfectly; rusting iron, miserable faces, and crumbling infrastructure. It is a town of abandoned buildings, few jobs, and a suffering population, something which is more common than people might believe. Through Jane and Henry’s stories, Hicks uses this setting to the best of his ability to prove just how disastrous a town like this could be to its population, along with just how far some people will go to ignore a problem. I also found the town to act as a sort of character of its own at times too. It suffers along with them, rotting from the inside out with their ghosts, but also learns to survive and move on with the cast of characters. Readers would find the portrayal of the town to be fascinating as it depicts just how much a setting could affect society, and how society could affect its setting.
Another aspect of the book that I adored were the characters and the themes behind them. Each living with their own ghost, I found the concept of this overbearing presence to be fascinating as it was almost like an extension of a character’s “self”, like the daemons in Philip Pullman’s books. Both like them and not, the ghosts acted as a support for the characters…but also as a source of pain. For example, to some Jane’s ghost might seem like a gift as it “reads” the thoughts of those around Jane and tells them to her. In reality, Jane is both friends with the ghost but not, glad to hear the extra commentary but also fearful of the pain that it could bring her. Her brother, Henry, is like this too with his ghost that makes him build strange but horrifying machines. To go through the process of building something is one thing, but when the power and evil behind the contraptions are revealed, only suffering ensues. Through these ghosts and their connections to the characters, Hicks explores deep issues such as relationships and what it means to be someone. He also explores social issues such as racism and sexism in a way that comments on how a setting could impact and rip at a certain person. This leads to the characters changing deeply through the story as their situations change as well, and though this might seem like an obvious thing to say about a book, readers will appreciate the insight that Hicks gives on how a place/society could impact who a person becomes.
If you are a fan of horror or thriller novels in YA, this is certainly the book for you. Jammed-packed with meaning and beautiful prose, Break the Bodies, Haunt the Bones is a book that is truly one of a kind. Not too graphic and without the jump-scare tactics of other horror books, Break the Bodies, Haunt the Bones will leave you questioning in the best way possible. I recommend this book for people ages 14 and up because of mild violence.
INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR:
1. Where did you go to find inspiration whenever you were in need of some?
I get most inspired by spending time with other good stories. Fiction, movies, narrative games, even looking at visual art can get me excited about writing again. Whenever I feel burnt out creatively, it usually means I haven’t been reading enough.
Most of my ideas are a response to something else. I read something amazing and think, “I want to do something that feels like this” or “I want to make someone feel this way.” Of course, then I have to find a way to capture that feeling while still creating something original, making it my own.
For this genre-crossing novel that blends so many SciFi concepts, I drew a lot of inspiration from FLCL, American Horror Story, and Jason Chan’s illustration. My literary inspiration is more in the sentences, the bombastic metaphors and similes, and there I have too many influences to know where to start, but there’s a lot of southern gothic DNA in this book.
2. If one of Swine Hill’s ghosts were following you, what type of ghost would they be and what do you think they would make you do?
The ghosts usually latch onto some flaw or insecurity, so my ghost would probably be drawn to loneliness. For most of my life, I’ve had trouble making connections with people. I often feel isolated, even when I’m around others.
If I was haunted by something, I think it would be a smothering cloud wrapped around me, heavy enough to feel it on my back and in my lungs, not letting me see or hear or touch anyone else.
Thankfully, I don’t live in Swine Hill!
3. How much of BREAK THE BODIES, HAUNT THE BONES, was inspired by America’s Rust Belt? And what kind of economic and psychological research did you have to do to set the tone of the book?
I think of Swine Hill as somewhere that could exist in any part of America, so placing it in the Rust Belt makes a lot of sense.
I’m from rural southwest Arkansas and I’ve lived all over the south, so those were the regions I drew on most when writing this book. Growing up, there was this pervasive sense of economic decline. I constantly heard rumors of businesses closing and people worried about employment. When I was in high school, I drove an hour away to work nights at a restaurant. Many of my family members do oil field or offshore work, spending a week or two with their families and then several weeks out of state because there just aren’t good options closer to home.
So that feeling of decline, the crumbling texture of little towns that grow smaller by the year, fears about loss of jobs, and resentment towards immigrants all came together to shape how I wrote about Swine Hill.
4. If you were to give one piece of advice to Jane at the beginning of the book, what would it be?
You can’t save everyone.
ENTER THE GIVEAWAY TO WIN ONE OF THREE COPIES OF BREAK THE BODIES, HAUNT THE BONES:
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I hope that you enjoyed this post! I love getting to post things like this to help promote author's books. Reviewing is the best way to help an author, and I am glad that I am able to do that through posts like this!
Until next time,
Welcome to the Book Enigma! I review different genres of books from young adult fiction to sci-fi. Enjoy!
Aspiring author who, along with reading YA and with other genres, also fosters kittens, and play the piano and cello!
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