Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Mike Dellosso's Darlington Woods ~ Reviewed

Darlington Woods
Mike Dellosso
Paperback: 281 pages
Publisher: Realms; 1 edition (May 4, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1599799189


After losing his wife and son, Jimmy, Rob Shields heads to Mayfield, Maryland, to live in a house he inherited. Eerie things begin to happen, including a dream where he sees Jimmy in a place called Darlington. Is his son alive? Can he possibly find him---in a town that doesn't appear on any map?


“There was no light in Darlington. Maybe there was at one time, but that time had long passed. Darkness ruled here now. All kinds of darkness.” p 63

Rob Shields is a man who has suffered great loss. His wife and child were ripped from his life, and now, hope against hope, it seems his son has found a way to call to him from that dark place to which he has vanished. Desperate to find and rescue his son, Rob sets out upon a journey – a journey to leave this life and join his wife and child. What Rob could never have imagined is that he would find himself amid a town and a people that were ruled by a horror and loss far greater than his own. When he meets a dark-eyed stranger in the local restaurant, Rob finds his spirit called to a place he’s never heard of before - Darlington.

Providence introduces Rob to someone else in the local diner, someone who knows about Darlington and someone who has been directed by God to intercede for Rob. Juli is a young waitress at the diner, and she exudes a peace and grace that immediately appeals to Rob. She also harbors an unnatural dislike for the stranger with the dark eyes. When Rob decides to go to Darlington, no matter the cost, no matter the danger, Juli is right there by his side. Neither of them are certain why they must face the coming battle together, but as they journey into the ever darkening woods of Darlington, it becomes abundantly clear that they are searching for the Light that dispels all darkness. As Juli intercedes, Rob must fight for his life as never before. Will either of them survive?

Approaching this book, knowing it was written during Mike Delloso’s battle with cancer, set my mind upon an analogous journey. Each sentence seemed to take on a double meaning, and the more I read, the more I felt like I was living inside the author’s heart and mind as he battled for his life throughout cancer surgery and treatment. Perhaps that was intended. Perhaps it was simply the outcome of his emotional and physical trauma that year. Whatever the reason…Darlington Woods was an unforgettable, terrifying ride into the darkest places of the human heart and mind…the place where fear lives.

The twists and turns of this story take the reader on a heart-pounding ride through the dark woods of Darlington. It feels kind of like a cross between walking through a house of horror during the Fall Festival and watching a very scary movie. I’m just very glad I didn’t read it at night or at bedtime! I wouldn’t suggest doing so either! Mike Delloso delivers a powerful message though a fast-paced, very scary story, and it will resonate in the hearts of everyone who has faced their darkest fears and lived to tell the tale.

Reviewed by: Kim Ford

Bonus Review:

I don’t normally read scary books like this one because I’m a chicken at heart! This book is ACFW’S Book Club pick for February 2011. I’m in the ACFW book club and leading the discussion so I’m committed to reading this book. I’m thankful for the review copy of this book from the author.

I’m so glad I read the author notes before I started reading the first chapter of this book. It gave me a glimpse into the author’s heart when he said, “Let’s talk about monsters, shall we? Let’s just sit-down and spend a little time in conversation about things that go bump in the night and images that haunt us while we sleep peacefully in our beds…I believe in monsters. I’ve seen them, even battled them. And no, I assure you, I’m not crazy.

The monsters of which I speak are around us every day and come in varying forms. They are called cancer…Parkinson’s juvenile arthritis. Monsters’ called abuse, murder and neglect…the web they spin, the wounds they carve, the hatchet they swing all go by the same name: fear.

Mikes words drew me in and gave me a clue that I was about to read something heartfelt, unnerving, and unusual about fear and what it looks like? I was right, here’s what Rob says, “When fear rules you, when it calls the shots, tells you what you can and can not do, when it paralyzes you for days on end and robs you of the freedom others enjoy so carelessly; that’s crazy.”

Mike wrote in several points of view which made the story move along. The pov’s were Rob, Julie, Mary Jane, Jimmy and Waxman. This helped to create quite a suspenseful, creepy tale of how fear got a strong hold of the minds, emotions and lives of a whole town. Switching pov’s helped me be able to read this scary story. I have to say that had this author stayed in Jimmy’s point of view the whole book I wouldn’t have made it past chapter one. It would have just been too creepy and horrific to read a whole book through little Jimmy’s eyes.

Rob Shields is a man on the edge. His wife was murdered three months ago and his son Jimmy is missing. Rob is convinced that his son is in the town of Darlington. Rob starts to question his own sanity as he struggles with knowing the difference between nightmares and real life. It’s getting hard for him to know when the nightmare stops and reality begins.

Rob stops at a restaurant and asks for directions to Darlington; people get fearful and nobody wants to talk. Then a mysterious man leaves a note with directions on Rob's table. Julie, his waitress, says she’d like to help him find his son. This seemed odd, but everything about this town and adventure was odd. I did enjoy Julie’s character and the comic relief she provided with lines like this, “This is a problem I don’t think duct tape could solve.”

Mike’s wit, compassion and effective story-telling through the many different points of view and how they all wrestled with fear was intriguing given the fact this author went face to face with the cancer monster while writing this book. I enjoyed the twists, turns, suspense and the “aha” moments when truth was brought to life in the middle of the darkness. I rooted for Rob and Juli as they fought fear and looked it in the face, and saw there was hope of breaking the chains of fear and living free of its grip. God is always with us. When we shine our light inside the darkness (fear), that darkness has to leave. It’s not welcome anymore. I really enjoy this aspect of the story. It’s strong, powerful and oh so real! Treat yourself to something unusual that will have you look at fear and monsters in a whole new light!

Reviewed by: Nora St. Laurent
ACFW Book Club Coordinator

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