Just finished Horns. My gut reactions

The devil is in the details.

Just finished Horns. My gut reactions

Postby Brian on Thu Mar 04, 2010 9:04 pm

My immediate, emotional reactions to the book, which I finished earlier today.

Full disclosure: I listened to the unabridged audiobook, a masterful performance by Fred Berman.

Let me begin by stating that nothing I have ever read (and I am a ravenous reader) has affected me the way this book has. This novel made me care for its characters more deeply than I thought possible. I ached for their happiness; and was so profoundly moved by their pain and sorrow - both when reading/listening and when not - that more than once it was a real disruption to my daily life.

That is nothing to sneeze at. Making readers care about your characters is a real challenge, and here Joe Hill has not only succeeded - spectacularly - but made it seem effortless. When I read the breakup scene at 'The Pit' (and just recalling it puts a lump in my throat) I was taken completely off guard by my own extreme emotional reaction. Until that terrible (and wonderful) chapter I didn't realize how much I already had emotionally invested in these two (entirely fictitious!) young folks -- it completely blindsided me.

To me, this seems to me a feat of storytelling so remarkable that I feel almost petty having any quibbles or complaints about the story. Nonetheless, I have a few.

I’ll start at the end – and of course I don’t mean the coda starring Terry and Glenna – I mean the fiery climax, ending with Ig and Merrin reunited – apparently now royalty in hell.

Their reunion is, of course, exactly what I wanted worse than anything by that point – and I’m sure most readers felt the same. Still – I would have given anything for just a little dialog between them. Even one line a piece would have been enough, would probably have had me choked up again. Make no mistake, falling into each others' arms and kissing is great, and the “wedding party” bit was nice – but in the absence of any dialog all … on some level I was left wondering if it even really WAS Merrin.

That is not a serious suggestion -- I’m sure we’re meant to believe that was, indeed her – but damn, wouldn’t you expect there'd be a flood of words at that reunion? Desperate, almost frantic?

“Oh my god Ig, I never meant for any of that to …”
“I'm such a jerk, I’m so sorry I drove off and…”
“I should have told you! I should have…”
“It’s okay baby, it’s okay…”

I'm no Shakespeare, but something along those lines, maybe. Demons or not, we know they still loved each other, and would, I think, have plenty to say. Heck, even a long, disbelieving pause before embracing would have worked.

I was also curious about why MERRIN would be damned to hell... But hey, they were Catholics, and they sure did do plenty of fornicatin’ …

It was, I thought, a little unsatisfying that Lee’s treachery was never publicly exposed, and Ig’s name never cleared. With the power to compel a confession from Lee, all Ig would need is a few witnesses around (preferably a TV news crew) and actually killing Lee would have been almost redundant.

Yet this omission may have been intentional; Ig became demonic, and did, after all, kill two people in revenge. Exoneration might not have been thematically appropriate.

All the same, I was quite surprised that Lee's political-adviser career never paid off or became an important plot point in any way. Even if Ig could not clear his own name, once he had obtained the "brain dump" from Lee, I thought perhaps he'd use all that information for a more nuanced attack. Armed with all of Lee's sleazy secrets, Ig might have engineered a long, torturous slide into disgrace for Lee - before killing him.

Finally, I will weigh in on Merrin's awful decision to push Ig away before his departure for London. This is based on my gut reaction as a man, not on any logic or reasoning.

She wanted to spare Ig the horror of watching the cancer kill her -- and to spare herself the ordeal of fighting the illness on his behalf. She chose to break his heart to protect him; a decision borne of both love and reason, and almost unbearably noble.

But absolutely the wrong call (and not just because Lee turned out to be a psychopath who fixated on her.) If I were Ig (and hey, while reading, didn't we all feel like we were Ig?) and I'd moved to London and shacked up with some English girl…. then later learned that Merrin had died of cancer? It wouldn't have taken long for me to connect the dots about why she'd broken up… and then I'd promptly have jumped in front of a double-decker bus. Period.

But that's just me...
Brian
 
Posts: 21
Joined: Wed Mar 03, 2010 7:25 am
Location: Northeast Ohio

Re: Just finished Horns. My gut reactions

Postby Betsy_Boo on Thu Mar 04, 2010 9:36 pm

Wow...really liked your review Brian.



I was upset too at Merrin's decision not to be honest with Ig, but I think that's simply who she was. She loved him so much and after the experience she had with her sister she simply couldn't put him through that. As I mentioned on another thread, if that bastard hadn't killed her I think she and Ig would've found their way back to each other. I don't think he would've shacked up with anyone because his heart was so broken. And surely someone would've called him and told him Merrin was sick and he would've flown home asap.

As for Ig and Merrin being in hell...I'm gonna have to pay closer attention as I re-read that part. I didn't automatically assume that. Thought that they ended up in their own "Treehouse" somewhere....alternate dimension or something, but I guess that's silly. It does make more sense that they ended up in hell.

Last night I again read Ig's sermon. I started crying so hard I had to put the book down. I really need to analyze why. There was something there that got to me on a very, VERY personal level.
"We'll always have Paris."

Image
Betsy_Boo
 
Posts: 4725
Joined: Sun Mar 04, 2007 1:20 pm
Location: North Carolina

Re: Just finished Horns. My gut reactions

Postby Brian on Thu Mar 04, 2010 9:58 pm

BB - I think you're right about it being 'just Merrin' -- and probably also about what would REALLY have happened if she hadn't been killed. I guess my point was that realistically, I don't think that Merrin's plan for Ig ever had a real chance at working the way she'd imagined, no matter what else had happened.

In the context of the larger story though, the 'breakup' -- and the REAL reason for it -- were of course indispensable. Technically, it COULD have been skipped; they might have had a pleasant dinner, a warm but tearful farewell - yet Lee still murdered her later that night, and Ig was still arrested at the airport (the police ALWAYS suspect spouses/boyfriends first - and they're right much of the time). The story could have proceeded from there in nearly the same way -- but it just wouldn't have had the same impact, as knowing they had spoken for the last time on such bitter terms. Truly, a narrative master stroke.

Random note: can't say why, but I kept picturing Merrin as a red-headed version of Emma Watson --- Hermione from the Harry Potter films. (They WERE very young when the first met, recall...)
Brian
 
Posts: 21
Joined: Wed Mar 03, 2010 7:25 am
Location: Northeast Ohio

Re: Just finished Horns. My gut reactions

Postby Betsy_Boo on Fri Mar 05, 2010 7:09 am

Oh wow...good call there! Hope by the time they make the movie EW is not too old. She would be a good choice.

And I def think you're right. The breakup was rather pivotal in Ig's fall. I can't even begin to imagine what that would do to me if someone I loved THAT much died under those circumstances. And you're right...Merrin's plan didn't have a chance in hell (pun intended).

BTW, thanks for pointing all these things out. I do love getting another person's perspective. I don't catch alot of things that other people do & it makes the experience that much richer!
"We'll always have Paris."

Image
Betsy_Boo
 
Posts: 4725
Joined: Sun Mar 04, 2007 1:20 pm
Location: North Carolina

Re: Just finished Horns. My gut reactions

Postby Betsy_Boo on Fri Mar 05, 2010 7:15 am

PS...I'm also glad to see a male perspective. It's so heartening to see men who can appreciate a story that is about the (real) love between a man & a woman. There have been times when I've thought men don't understand love at all...Joe & you & some other guys I've talked to about this have proven me wrong. I'm glad!

Of course if you've ever read a romance novel you can imagine that women don't get it either!
"We'll always have Paris."

Image
Betsy_Boo
 
Posts: 4725
Joined: Sun Mar 04, 2007 1:20 pm
Location: North Carolina

Re: Just finished Horns. My gut reactions

Postby Brian on Fri Mar 05, 2010 9:36 am

Emma'd be terrific, though they'd have to teach her an American accent. :)

I don't usually seek out love stories, but I don't shrink from them either. I really wasn't EXPECTING Horns to BE the love story that it was, but I'm definitely not complaining.

All the same, I hope it's a while before I find another one quite this intense - I can only handle so much...
Brian
 
Posts: 21
Joined: Wed Mar 03, 2010 7:25 am
Location: Northeast Ohio

Re: Just finished Horns. My gut reactions

Postby Nerak on Fri Mar 05, 2010 10:57 am

It was an amazing story!

And for her to be able to walk away from him and want him to have a different life than watching her die...that was so strong of her. I wouldn't be able to do that...I would be clinging to everyone I loved!
Nerak
 
Posts: 502
Joined: Thu Feb 01, 2007 11:33 am
Location: In my chair

Re: Just finished Horns. My gut reactions

Postby Brian on Fri Mar 05, 2010 11:09 am

Nerak - me too .. although I CAN imagine feeling differently if I'd endured it from the other side: watching a loved one slowly destroyed by disease, and seeing the terrible toll it took on the family - and on me.

Yet, I hope I'd also try to put myself in their shoes; how would Merrin have felt if her sister had hidden HER illness - excluding her family from ordeal, then dying suddenly without having even discussed it with them? Terribly, terribly hurt, I'd think.

Merring wanting to protect Ig was noble, strong, and entirely in-character, but ultimately futile. Sharing the hurt is part of loving someone; it's just not negotiable.
Brian
 
Posts: 21
Joined: Wed Mar 03, 2010 7:25 am
Location: Northeast Ohio

Re: Just finished Horns. My gut reactions

Postby foxslady on Fri Mar 05, 2010 4:22 pm

some of us don't cling to everyone we know,we stay strong to support the family, cause it seems to be harder on others than it is on you. I've been in remission for 3 years and was there for my Grand daughter when she had a brain cancer removed. she's been in remission for 2 years. Neither of us whined and felt sorry for ourselves. and we bothe plan to be around for a long time cause we "Haven't pissed off enough people"

Barb
wrinkles are left over smiles
foxslady
 
Posts: 336
Joined: Sat Mar 03, 2007 2:18 pm
Location: Florida

Re: Just finished Horns. My gut reactions

Postby Brian on Fri Mar 05, 2010 4:28 pm

Interesting foxslady -- and I suppose nobody can really judge how they'd react without actually going through it.

Just out of curiosity, did you, in fact, keep your condition secret from your loved ones when you first found out?
Brian
 
Posts: 21
Joined: Wed Mar 03, 2010 7:25 am
Location: Northeast Ohio

Re: Just finished Horns. My gut reactions

Postby foxslady on Fri Mar 05, 2010 5:18 pm

NO I didn't, our family doesn't hide things, as a matter of fact some of the family was estranged and this brought it together, so good came out of it. We have the attitude that no matter how bad you think you have it, there's always someone else in worse shape. or with more problems.
actually I only had 5 days between the time we found I had cancer and the time I had my masectomy. and my Grand daughter was having bad headaches and her hubby took her to the ER they did an MRI and transported her to Dartmouth-Hitchcock for surgery the same day.

Barb
wrinkles are left over smiles
foxslady
 
Posts: 336
Joined: Sat Mar 03, 2007 2:18 pm
Location: Florida

Re: Just finished Horns. My gut reactions

Postby Betsy_Boo on Fri Mar 05, 2010 5:48 pm

Brian wrote:Sharing the hurt is part of loving someone; it's just not negotiable.


I love this Brian...you are something special.
And FL...I'm glad you did share with your family and I'm really glad something good came out of it. Stay well. :)
"We'll always have Paris."

Image
Betsy_Boo
 
Posts: 4725
Joined: Sun Mar 04, 2007 1:20 pm
Location: North Carolina

Re: Just finished Horns. My gut reactions

Postby foxslady on Fri Mar 05, 2010 5:53 pm

Actually I got introduced to Joe Hill's books because of the Cancer. One of my friends from the Green Mile sent me a signed bookand a little stuwhite stuffed seal. When 20CG came out I got a signed copy of that from her as well.

Thanks for the good wishes
Barb
wrinkles are left over smiles
foxslady
 
Posts: 336
Joined: Sat Mar 03, 2007 2:18 pm
Location: Florida

Re: Just finished Horns. My gut reactions

Postby Brian on Sun Mar 14, 2010 6:36 pm

It just occurred to me that if this novel were ever brought to the screen,  it would almost certainly cause a mighty uproar. It is, after all, an indictment of God (or at least, the traditional Catholic ideal of God) with the devil as its hero - and makes its point with a powerfully written love story.  If the film were made half as skillfully as the novel is, viewers would be deeply moved.

There is a large contingent in the US who would find this horrifying and unacceptable (generating real and profound "sympathy for the devil?"  Even in a fictional context??   Heresy!!)   The film and everyone involved in its production would be pilloried by the religious right - and frankly, I'd hate to see Joe Hill become the target of that sort of bile.
Brian
 
Posts: 21
Joined: Wed Mar 03, 2010 7:25 am
Location: Northeast Ohio

Re: Just finished Horns. My gut reactions

Postby Betsy_Boo on Sun Mar 14, 2010 8:22 pm

I think you're right Brian. I have to admit (being a person of faith) that Ig's "indictment of God" caused me some discomfort. I personally have been having a crisis of faith and this book, especially Ig's sermon, was very hard to read. The bottom line for me was that yes, Ig physically became a demon, but he rarely did anything demon-like. Yes, he turned away from God, but he was still Ig...a nice guy. When people asked "permission" to be evil he generally talked them out of it. And his turning away from God is understandable considering what happened to the love of his life.
But, you're right. If they do make this movie, there is no way that Joe will come through unscathed.
"We'll always have Paris."

Image
Betsy_Boo
 
Posts: 4725
Joined: Sun Mar 04, 2007 1:20 pm
Location: North Carolina

Next

Return to HORNS


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest