Thursday, December 3, 2020

Review: The Children of Red Peak by Craig DiLouie

The Children of Red Peak
The Children of Red Peak by Craig DiLouie
Publication Date: November 17th, 2020
Paperback. 384 pages

About The Children of Red Peak:

"David Young, Deacon Price, and Beth Harris live with a dark secret. As children, they survived a religious group's horrific last days at the isolated mountain Red Peak. Years later, the trauma of what they experienced never feels far behind.
When a fellow survivor commits suicide, they finally reunite and share their stories. Long-repressed memories surface, defying understanding and belief. Why did their families go down such a dark road? What really happened on that final night?
The answers lie buried at Red Peak. But truth has a price, and escaping a second time may demand the ultimate sacrifice."

After the horrific end of a doomsday cult that they spent time at as children, David, Deacon, and Beth now spend their lives attempting to grapple with and overcome the memories that haunt them. The three deal with an extensive amount of lingering trauma, which is primarily what this book focuses on, and their efforts to understand those final days of the cult are kickstarted when one of the five remaining survivors and old friend commits suicide. 

The Children of Red Peak switches between the perspectives of David, Deacon, and Beth, as well as includes flashbacks between the present and the characters' time as children in the cult. I didn't particularly find myself that invested in any of these characters, but I did appreciate how DiLouie explored each one's experiences both in the past and the present. David, who arrived at the cult the latest of the three, saw his mother die as a kid and now spends his time focusing on his family and his job as an exit counselor for cults. Beth is now a psychologist who spends a lot of her time attempting to understand their experiences from a more clinical point of view, as well as ways to help them overcome their trauma. Lastly is Deacon, who is arguably one struggling the most as a frontman to his rock band. My biggest struggle with the POV switches was that there were often random switches that left me a little confused and having to quickly try to figure out who we were following again, as some of the voices from the past occasionally felt similar.

As might be expected, I enjoyed the flashback portions far more than the modern day sections, and I liked seeing how this cult worked, from its more modest and "harmless" beginnings to the slow transition into more intense actions and events that lead to the eventually drastic and tragic end. DiLouie really did a great job of capturing the persuasive effects of the cult and how it can be such a magnetic force for people. The modern perspectives of this book were less compelling for me, and I found myself losing interest a bit in those sections. I found DiLouie's exploration of their trauma and how they continue to grapple with the aftereffects interesting, but I just couldn't bring myself to care overmuch about their current lives, especially since much of it felt rather dry and hard to get into. 
The ending of this book has left me with far more questions than it does answers, and not necessarily in a good way. I think it was a brave choice on DiLouie's part to end it how he did, but it's also left me wondering what his message is and what exactly I'm supposed to take away from this book. I also am not sure if I would classify this book as 'horror' as much as it seems to be marketed. The horror elements definitely come into play near the end of the book, which is also where I would throw in some content warnings for more graphic violence and body mutilation. Outside of that, I felt that this was more an exploration of a horrific trauma and its aftereffects than it was a straight horror novel. 

Overall, I've given The Children of Red Peak three stars. I felt that there were a lot of really promising elements of this story, but it just didn't work for me quite as much as I'd hoped it would. Still, if you have any interest in cults or novels focusing on trauma, I would absolutely recommend this one!

*I received a copy of The Children of Red Peak courtesy of Orbit in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating or enjoyment of the book.*

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