Book Review: Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones | More2Read
 

Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones




NOMINATED FOR THE SHIRLEY JACKSON AWARD

NOMINATED FOR THE BRAM STOKER AWARD

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF 2016 BY TOR.COM AND BOOK RIOT

A spellbinding and darkly humorous coming-of-age story about an unusual boy, whose family lives on the fringe of society and struggles to survive in a hostile world that shuns and fears them.

He was born an outsider, like the rest of his family. Poor yet resilient, he lives in the shadows with his aunt Libby and uncle Darren, folk who stubbornly make their way in a society that does not understand or want them. They are mongrels, mixed blood, neither this nor that. The boy at the center of Mongrels must decide if he belongs on the road with his aunt and uncle, or if he fits with the people on the other side of the tracks.

For ten years, he and his family have lived a life of late-night exits and narrow escapes—always on the move across the South to stay one step ahead of the law. But the time is drawing near when Darren and Libby will finally know if their nephew is like them or not. And the close calls they’ve been running from for so long are catching up fast now. Everything is about to change.

A compelling and fascinating journey, Mongrels alternates between past and present to create an unforgettable portrait of a boy trying to understand his family and his place in a complex and unforgiving world. A smart and innovative story— funny, bloody, raw, and real—told in a rhythmic voice full of heart, Mongrels is a deeply moving, sometimes grisly, novel that illuminates the challenges and tender joys of a life beyond the ordinary in a bold and imaginative new way.


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org


Praise For Mongrels:

With hints of True Blood and Winter’s Bone, and with lupine tongue tucked well into cheek, Mongrels is at once an adolescent romp through the tangled woods of family history and a rich compendium of werewolf lore old and new. Stephen Graham Jones gifts us with fun characters, imaginative set pieces and an immersive tour of the flat-broke American South that spares no plastic orchid or cable spool coffee table.
— Christopher Buehlman, author of Those Across the River and The Lesser Dead

You know how you once wished you were a werewolf? How you stood in front of the mirror and wanted to see a . . . transformation? Mongrels takes you by the hand, guides you down that road, finally, to that change.
— Josh Malerman, author of Bird Box

Stephen Graham Jones has written a wondrous shapeshifter of a novel. Mongrels exists somewhere in the borderlands of literary and genre fiction, full of horror and humor and heart, at once a nightmarish road trip and a moving story about a broken family leashed together by their fierce love and loyalty. A bloody great read.
— Benjamin Percy, author of The Dead Lands, Red Moon, and The Wilding

Mongrels left me speechless. Or breathless. Certainly without my dew claw. I mean, this book, it’s so smart, original, thrilling, horrifying, and human. A story about a broken family of werewolves on the run, never fitting in anywhere, trekking into the poorest parts of the southern US. And there’s that final, painful transformation, when they become your messed up werewolf family too, and you don’t ever feel poor or like a misfit. Not once.
— Paul Tremblay, author of A Head Full of Ghosts and Disappearance at Devil’s Rock

Mongrels isn’t just a coming-of-age story or a horror story. It looks at the world through a disturbing, uncomfortable lens, and offers up a brutal mythology of werewolves. I’ve never seen anything quite like it and I won’t forget it anytime soon.
— Carrie Vaughn, New York Times bestselling author of the Kitty Norville series


Review:

This telling starts with a sentence of a declaration of someone not in the know of certain aspects of kin.

“My grandfather used to tell me he was a werewolf.”

Then the testament of being without and needing searching for something within.
“Me, I was right at the edge of being eight years old, my mom dead since the day I was born, no dad anybody would talk about. Libby had been my mom’s twin, once upon a time.”

A fine portrait before you with the complexities of one young life and finding his feet and the whole realm he is within, his journey state to state in El Camino, born in Arkansas and poor, on the road, with uncle and aunt, never in one place at a time with stories giving him hope in becoming something truely magnificent. 

“This is the way werewolf stories go. Never any proof. Just a story that keeps changing, like it’s twisting back on itself, biting its own stomach to chew the poison out.”

Me, I am not hunting not so much now in the wild, kitchens and hospitality I am welcomed now.
Mingle in rarely have to hunt.

But one must never forget how to hunt, “how to smell and listen and see.”
One aspect that rings true, I have had trouble with in past but conquered now, advice to aid upcoming young ones like our young voice in this tale is stop eating those french fries out in the open!

I find it funny these questions put to our young man to be something in-between.

Does your guy disappear each month for two or three days at a time?”
“When your guy gives you jewelry, is it gems and gold, or is it silver?”
“Do dogs react unfavorably to your guy?”
“Does your guy like his hamburgers rare?”
“Do your guy’s eyebrows meet in the middle?”

This testament of my fellow brother I hope awakens readers of the lies out there. No! my eyebrows do not meet in the middle.
There was truth laid in here and they came in from of these:

“Age like dogs”
“good wolf isn’t always a good man”
“Not all kids born to a werewolf are a werewolf”
“Halloween is the one night of the year werewolves go to church.”
“as werewolves, the trash is so fragrant, so perfect”
“Bigger everything but bladders”
“Werewolves are paranoid about having dog breath”

One final piece i quote to something in-betweeners, citizens of towns and villages, that runs true and my heart is at battle with with till this day is that, “It’s like the world wants us to be monsters. Like it won’t let us live the way normal citizens do.”

A film in popular culture got it right, when an actress said about our kind, in a film called the howling, “A secret society exists, and is living among all of us. They are neither people nor animals, but something in-between.”

All he has been through can educate and aid in survival for our kind.
A must-read werewolf book.
You may be tempted to watch The Howling, American Werewolf in London, and Teen Wolf, in exploration of more werewolfs among you.




Excerpts:

“It was Grandpa, rising up in his son. What I was seeing was Grandpa as a young man, itching to roam, to fight, to run down his dinner night after night because his knees were going to last forever. Because his teeth would always be strong. Because his skin would never be wax paper. Because fifty-five years old was a lifetime away. Because werewolves, they live forever.”

“Wolves, werewolves like us, we’ve got bigger teeth to eat with, better eyes to see with, sharper claws to claw with. Bigger everything, even stomachs, because we eat more, don’t know when the next meal’s coming.”

“The movies always make werewolves so much bigger than their human versions. It’s all bull***t. Conservation of mass. If anything, after shifting you’re a few ounces lighter, taking into account all the calories you just had to burn through. All the saliva you’re now stringing down to the ground.”

“Being a werewolf isn’t just teeth and claws,” she said, her lips brushing my ear she was so close, so quiet, “it’s inside. It’s how you look at the world. It’s how the world looks back at you.”




Stephen Graham Jones is the author of fifteen novels and six story collections. He has received numerous awards, including the NEA Literature Fellowship in fiction, the Texas Institute of Letters Jesse H. Jones Award for Best Work of Fiction, the Independent Publisher Book Award for Multicultural Fiction, and the This Is Horror Award, as well as making Bloody Disgusting’s Top Ten Horror Novels of the Year. Stephen was raised in West Texas. He now lives in Boulder, Colorado, with his wife and children.



Reviewed by Lou Pendergrast on 18 October 2019