From the publisher:
Victoria McQueen has a secret gift for finding things: a misplaced bracelet, a missing photograph, answers to unanswerable questions. On her Raleigh Tuff Burner bike, she makes her way to a rickety covered bridge that, within moments, takes her wherever she needs to go, whether it’s across Massachusetts or across the country.
Charles Talent Manx has a way with children. He likes to take them for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the NOS4A2 vanity plate. With his old car, he can slip right out of the everyday world, and onto the hidden roads that transport them to an astonishing – and terrifying – playground of amusements he calls “Christmasland.”
Then, one day, Vic goes looking for trouble—and finds Manx. That was a lifetime ago. Now Vic, the only kid to ever escape Manx’s unmitigated evil, is all grown up and desperate to forget. But Charlie Manx never stopped thinking about Victoria McQueen. He’s on the road again and he’s picked up a new passenger: Vic’s own son.
Everyone…lives inside the world inside their own head. An inscape, a world of thought. Emotions are as real as gravity. Dreams are as powerful as history. Creative people, like writers and Henry Rollins, spend a lot of their time hanging out in their thoughtworld.
This is my third Joe Hill read, and I am 100% sold now – this book is fantastic. Yep, I’m going all in. I need to read everything he’s written, and will be first in line when he releases something new. Joe’s books are consistently imaginative and a bit over the top, and this one takes the cake in the best way possible. This is the story of Vic McQueen, the perils of motherhood, the loss of childhood innocence, and the power of imagination. Oh yeah, there’s a totally terrifying bad guy too.
As a child, Vic McQueen discovers that she has a special gift – she is a strong creative who utilizes her bicycle to conjure up a bridge that she can cross to find misplaced objects. She meets a librarian named Maggie who helps her to understand her gift; she also warns her about someone named Charlie Manx. Charlie possesses the same gift, and uses it to kidnap children and take them to a place where they can be eternally happy, Christmasland. Vic and Charlie eventually meet, and let’s just say the encounter does not end well.
Years later, Vic is an adult with a son named Wayne, and a complicated relationship with Wayne’s father, Lou. She appears to be descending into madness as a result of her childhood encounter with Charlie, but lovable Lou stays by her side and believes her story without question. Before long, Charlie returns.
This book reads like a movie – I was able to perfectly picture every character and every scene thanks to Hill’s engrossing prose. Hill has created a world where the impossible seems possible, with a flawed but completely kick-ass main character, and one of the best villains that I’ve read. Charlie Manx is way more interesting than your run of the mill bad guy, he truly believes he is helping children by bringing them to a place where they will experience nothing but joy. As it turns out, even kids need to work through unpleasant emotions and life disappointments – less they turn into tiny gleeful killers.
I leave you with one of my favourite moments from the book, an exchange between Lou and Wayne:
I think you’re suffering from the human condition.
Can you die from that?
Yeah…it’s pretty much fatal in every case.