by Caleb J. Ross
My Rating: Five Stars *****
If I could use just a few words to attempt to describe Stranger Will, I would choose:
Stranger Will was truly one of the best books I have read, in quite some time. I don’t re-read books very often but this is one book in which I plan to do just that. Why? Because there are SO many layers contained within this story, so many meanings, and so many things to think more about. A second read, would be an opportunity to pull back some additional layers… layers you can’t help but to have missed the first read through and even then… I think it is quite likely that you would still not reach the ultimate core of Stranger Will.
The author Caleb J. Ross, is definitely unique with his style, yet at the same time, his writing reminds me of other great authors such as:
- Chuck Palahniuk (author of Fight Club, Survivor, and Choke)
- Augusten Burroughs (author of Running With Scissors, Possible Side Effects, and Magical Thinking)
- George Orwell (author of Animal Farm and 1984)
Caleb J. Ross has a way of telling an edgy, odd story, with a serious dark side. He creates and brings to life, characters who you’d be afraid to know.
Stranger Will makes you think about those frustrating types of questions, those questions that don’t seem to have the black and white answers you so desperately crave for them to have.
The main character William, is an insecure, depressed and cynical character, whose job as a human remains removal specialist has contributed to his lack of enthusiasm he is exhibiting for his unborn child. According to William…
He cleans the dead from the world and what’s one more child? Just another body that someone will one day have to clean from the road.
“Just a parasite, Julie,” he takes a sip of coffee, cold but he keeps his face straight. “Tapeworms, children, we could all use fewer of them.”
His fiancée Julie, seems to deal with William’s resistance to their fetus, which is already very well-established within her, by continuing to cross-stitch, shop for baby clothes, pick out names (one for a boy, one for a girl), sing lullabies and stay calm. Julie clearly feels she is already a mother. William on the other hand, continues to search for any solution in which they will not be the ones expected to give this child what little he believes that they can offer it. Those that feel desperate for solutions, often come to their solutions in dangerous and immoral ways.
There were so many things that intrigued me about this novel, including…
- William’s employment as a human remains removal specialist. His job is to remove the ‘stains’ that human lives leave behind.
- The personality contrast between William and his co-worker, Philip. “Philip believes people deserve chances. William believes that people are the exact reason chances don’t work.” The dynamic between the two is riveting.
- Mrs. Rose, the elementary school principal and the bizarre lessons she is teaching to not only her students but to many adults as well, including William. Even more astounding, is her philosophy behind these lessons. “Mrs. Rose has taught William many things, one of which is that the world is not worth fighting against. The world knows what it is doing.” and “Mrs. Rose taught William that children are a second chance and that second chances are exactly what keep us from believing that we need only one.”
- Messenger pigeons and messages that are intercepted and how they can form their own story.
- The different meaning, purpose and value that the individual characters have for life and where that ultimately brings each of them in the end.
- The ability and need that some have to control and what that means. How is that accomplished? What is lost by those who are controlled? What may be gained and what may be lost by a group that is under a method of organized control? What is lost be the one doing the controlling?
If you are one who likes to ponder the meaning behind things – you will enjoy this book.
If you like dark, twisted, bizarre and sick characters – you will enjoy this book.
If you enjoy the writing style of Chuck Palahniuk, Augusten Burroughs or George Orwell – you will enjoy this book.
If you like a book that makes you think and then makes you think again – you will love this book.
I highly recommend Stranger Will to all adult readers.
I am very much looking forward to following Caleb J. Ross’s writing career, for he is a noteworthy, significant and truly brilliant writer of our times.
Some of My Favourite Quotes
William admires her will power, though he could do without her drive to use it against him.
When two strangers meet in the woods, they don’t pass by with a nod. They don’t pretend something greater lies just ahead. They smile at company and make room for a few words.
A body, a simple lump of blue skin, black hair, and features, sits molded to the corner. Not a stain, not a mess, but a real human being. Her eyes roll toward the light. In a final stretch for good news, William turns to Philip and shrugs. “At least most of her blood is still in her body.”
I’ve seen the desert our world has become, shredded with bullet holes in apartment buildings where nothing but filth exists. I’ve cleaned it from walls with a toothbrush stolen from the deceased’s bathroom. I’ve believed in a world with good intentions for too long.
“She also told William that people who use the word fascinating, usually aren’t.”
“Keep an animal locked up with nothing to do and eventually it will realize it is imprisoned.”
Though he’s known for days that these games teach survival, he sees now that these skills are not the school’s primary motive. Where once he saw a small tiff, children being as children will be, he sees now a gang initiation, or extermination of the weak, not for survival but to prove dedication. Where once a group of children might play rhyming games, clapping hands, smiles and chants, they now share blood via severed fingers and cut palms.
“What, I ask you, is less pleasurable to endure than permanence?”
“It might be years from now that these kids look back and realize that they’ve been controlled their entire lives, but it will happen. They might hate me, you, and all the others, but they will understand control — they will realize their life. It might take therapy, it might happen behind a giant oak desk in a corner office, but it will hit them, and they will have an entire childhood of proof.”
We live above defeated generations and search for all the ideas they must have missed.
William looks again, before the sun disappears, across his home, his life with Julie, and fits everything into graves.
She had been enduring his rants for months, staying strong to her familial ideal, and here was the end to what he had wanted all along: his weak fiancée fighting up hills of dirt dug in search of her child.
…he has the power to steer outcome. The trick is to keep anyone else from believing it.
Please note: I received a review copy of Stranger Will courtesy of Novel Publicity, in exchange for a written review with my honest thoughts, comments and opinions regarding this book.
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