I picked up this book for review at just the right time. Horror has bored me as of late. I’m seeing a lot of the same tropes. Blood here, blood there. Running from monsters, maniacal cannibals, and other dead horses. These things do nothing for me. They’re good on the screen when you’re in the mood for a body count, but in the written word, for me, it’s trudging through mud I’d rather have walked around. My eye starts to wander toward my small shelf of Nicholas Sparks and Louis L’Amour spines — none of which I’ve read, but have wondered if I’m missing a good time. I’m okay with losing horror points for that little confession. For me, there are no guilty pleasures. Just good books, good music, good movies.
I’d just gotten done reading two books that, while well written, presented concepts that brought about the mud-trudging mentioned above. Again, not for me. My search for originality is a nonstop journey, and my radar is always on. I’m the guy at the club on his tip-toes, scanning the heads, looking for that hot blonde to strike up a conversation with. That one with the Black Flag shirt, holding a skateboard in one hand and a lasso in the other. Unpredictability. Originality. Okay, I’m not really that guy. I’m married and I haven’t been to a club since George W. ran for office. But those books, those unique gems with characters I’m forced to love (or love to hate) — this is exactly the category Mark Matthew’s Body of Christ falls under.
Two children who live across from one another both suffer the loss of their parents. They deal with their grief differently, but both with a skewed understanding of God and the afterlife brought on by people with an even more skewed vision, particularly the Catholic church. That part sounds a little familiar doesn’t it? Growing up with guilt and legalism attached to a belief in God as young minds are morphed into believing that Christ wasn’t about love but about rights and wrongs and rituals. Mix that with the grief that accompanies bereavement and you’ve got one kid building his own personal Jesus using communion wafers and a tiny piece of his father’s rotting flesh, and the other burying her used tampons in a grave meant for the remembrance of those aborted as she struggles to give a proper burial to what she feels she has killed during menstruation. Tie in a special Halloween anniversary and you’ve got a heart-wrenching inside look at the minds of two latch-key kids who find their own way of coping.
My hope for readers of this book is that they really catch on to what Matthews is saying. This book isn’t about taking a holy figure and making it something sacrilegious. It isn’t about the shock factor. It’s about the perfect storm of loss, guilt, and youth, and resurrecting an abomination that could come through such oppressive thoughts. If you’re the religious type who’s broken free from the idea that God is nothing but an overseer, taking careful note of every wrong move you’ve ever made only to make you pay for it instead of the unconditional and forgiving love that is there, then you can appreciate the ideas Matthews has conjured. But if you’re still in the well-laid trap of legalism and guilt that so many misinterpret as God, then you may want to look elsewhere, because this book may offend you. And of course if you’re neither then you’ll most certainly appreciate this well-crafted tale.
Body of Christ is a unique Frankenstein concept using the fragile, grieving minds of children caught in a messy misinterpretation of love, death, and forgiveness.