Saturday, February 21, 2015

Book Review: "Demons" by Wayne Macauley

Full disclosure: I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

"I wonder if stories can change how things are in the world or if they're just us telling others what we think the world looks like?"

Seven friends gather at a beach house in Australia one winter weekend. They've made a promise not to bring their children, and to cut themselves off from the outside world for a few days—no cell phones, no internet, no television. They plan to eat and drink well, and each will tell a story. It doesn't have to be a personal story, simply a story worth sharing.

As they start telling their stories, a storm rolls in, flooding the area and essentially stranding the group in the house. They debate the power of stories on the larger world. Amidst the stories, some tensions rise to the surface, as one friend reflects on his role in a tragic incident that affected his family, and his relationship with his teenage daughter. And then it's not just the weather that is tumultuous, because suddenly some long-held secrets are revealed.

I'd never read anything by Wayne Macauley before, and I thought the premise of this book was pretty intriguing. Macauley is a very good writer, and he ratchets up the tension little by little throughout the story, until you're just waiting for something to happen.

The problem is, there are so many characters it's often difficult to remember who's who, and who belongs with whom. Not all of the stories they tell are interesting, so it's difficult to really get into the book. And I felt the ending just took the whole book down a soap opera-esque path that really undercut the book's overall appeal. It's a shame, because I really thought the book showed promise. But given Macauley's narrative ability, I'm definitely interested in checking out some of his older books.

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