13:24, by M. Dolon Hickmon ISBN 9780991106608
Five out of five stars
This is a very hard book to read, for the subject matter is child abuse. The situation is made worse due to the context of much of it being done within the umbrella of religious freedom and following passages from the Christian Old Testament. There is also a profit motive in that videos are made and then sold via back channels to “aficionados.” The most brutal aspect is when very wealthy men select a certain type of child from a catalog of types and one is abducted to match their desires.
The main characters are Josh and Chris, two boys from extremely dysfunctional homes. Chris’s mother is an alcoholic and drug addict prostitute that brings a sequence of men to their trailer. When Andrew arrives, he is different. He interacts with Chris, acting the role of a true parent, forming an instant bond between them. Chris is so starved for adult affection that he accepts severe spankings from Andrew that end with Chris being held in his arms. Those spankings are recorded for sale by the network.
Josh is the son of a minister that believes that children should be severely whipped into submission. In an environment of religious fundamentalism, the minister’s message of following the dictums of the old testament in “sparing the rod and spoiling the child” causes the development of a mass following of his message. This leads to the bizarre situation of Josh going with his father to meetings and being presented as a poster boy for the positive consequences of beating your child.
The story shifts several times, temporally, in location and in characters. It is presented from the perspective of the abused, the members of law enforcement and the planners and implementers of the abuse. At times it is difficult to follow the story through a transition, it takes the reading of a few paragraphs before you are properly oriented to the new perspective.
The writing is solid without being spectacular. To the author’s credit, the abuse is depicted as an integral part of the story without embellishment or commentary. The abused children are treated like they are, mistreated, yet forgiving in their desperation for affection and attention.
It is a sad story that holds your attention, you want these two lost boys to somehow recover and be able to lead relatively normal lives. The reader also has no sympathy for the villainous types, there is the hope that they will get their own form of “divine retribution.”
This book was made available for free for review purposes.