Title: The Chalk Man
Author : C.J. Tudor
Publisher: Crown Publishing Group (Penguin Random House)
Publication Date: 01/09/18
Dates Read: 01/20/18 – 01/24/18
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
“There are some things in life you can alter — your weight, your appearance, even
your name — but there are others that wishing and trying and working hard can
never make any difference to. those things are the ones that shape us.
Not the things we can change, but the ones we can’t.”
It’s 1986 and Eddie, Fat Gav, Metal Mickey, Hoppo, and Nicky are reveling in summer nights, creating and embracing childhood memories that will last a lifetime. Unfortunately, not all of these childhood memories will evolve into fond recollections. This lively crew of young friends creates an innocent ‘code’ using chalk on their driveways to communicate. A code that is eventually adopted by an unknown artist in order to lead the children to body–A dismembered body at the end of a trail lined by stick men drawn in chalk.
Thirty years later, Eddie and his friends receive envelopes–each containing a single drawing of a chalk man and a single stick of chalk. Some of the men believe it to be a prank. Some believe it to be motivated by attempts to stir up media attention. However, when one of their original group turns up dead, they know there is something more ominous looming over them all.
Filled with mystery, gut-wrenching fear, wrong-doings, truths left untold–The Chalk Man takes readers on parallel journeys along two separate timelines that ebb and flow into the depths of a sea of sinister secrets.
First off… The epilogue of this novel is phenomenal. And then the first chapter gob-smacks you with shocking events… and then the second chapter follows suit. The Chalk Man is unapologetically relentless in its ability to produce shock-and-awe scenes that rattle you to your core.
“If our world was a snow globe, it was the day some casual god came along, shook
it hard and set it back down again. Even when the foam and flakes had settled,
things weren’t the way they were before. Not exactly. They might have looked
the same through the glass but, on the inside, everything was different.”
I was so engrossed in this novel and could not put it down.. My husband actually read the title before me, so after each reading session I had, we would engage in intense conversations about the events that were unfolding before me. This is good readin’ folks.
This story is obviously told in a dual point of view– Eddie when he is a child in the 80’s and Eddie when he is an adult, living in a small home he shares with a house-mate (renter). C.J. Tudor snakes little tidbits of shocking information into each shift in point of view at every turn of the corner, leaving readers on the edge of their seat and satisfyingly clueless–not only to what is going to happen, but also to what has already happened.
The characters in 80’s timeline are so enjoyable. These kids are full of personality, have given one another fun nicknames, and frankly came across in my mind as ‘the gang’ from Stranger Things. I don’t know if it was the 80’s overtones or the fact that the group was all boys (plus one tough girl)–but I could not help myself.. I pictured them as Will, Mike, Lucas, Dustin, and (the new addition) Mad Max.
And not only was the story line super enticing, but there were so many interesting themes and discussion points that could be pulled out of this novel. I am a teacher, so my mind automatically is drawn to pieces of a story that could be fleshed out, pulled apart, and inspected under a microscope of conversational analysis. That’s just the reader I am. Here are a few thoughts that loomed over my reading of this novel:
Religion vs. Morals
Eddies parents exist on the pages of this novel in a form that I could only interpret as being atheist or agnostic. They do not outright say this, which I think is important to the arguments that they make with their inspirational comments to their son. This novel really tests the waters of what really makes you a “good person”. Does religion and spirituality ultimately ground people on to a foundation of “goodness”? Or is there something much more simple and pure that goes into the makings of the human soul and its capabilities to do good in the world?
“‘No, Eddie. I don’t think how you act in this life makes any difference after you die.
Good or bad. But it does make a big difference while you’re alive.
To other people. That’s why you should always try to treat them well.'”
Actions vs. Consequences
So many of our lovely characters in this novel have secrets that they have hidden far into the depths of their pasts. Most of these secrets have to do with small actions–the insignificant decisions that we make in the “heat of the moment”– that can have unexpected, undesired, and unbelievable consequences. Just wait until you see some of the pebbles these characters drop into a pond and how those ripples effect so many around them.
Protesters (Current Events)
You learn very early on that young Eddie’s mother is a doctor and through quick inferencing skills, you realize that she is a doctor who is administering abortions to women. I never got the sense of the author’s personal or political opinions casting a shadow over the novel’s events at all–but through the actions of those around Eddie’s family, you begin to see some of the same controversial issues and debates that we currently see in our society. There are protesters who are particularly violent, nasty, and insensitive to the humanity that exists within Eddie’s own home and you see another relevant theme of ‘those screaming for love while simultaneously casting it down with hate’ fills the pages.
This one hit close to home. Not only do I myself, as well as many family members, battle with this on a daily basis–but it’s also a cause that I have dedicated my life to. I am a special educator, but my heart lies in the specialization of working with adolescents with emotional behavioral disorders. You will read this novel and be able to pick out many individuals who are struggling with the effects that mental illness has placed upon their lives. And you will also read thought provoking lines that will make you reach down into the depths of your soul and ponder the importance of what you just read. “‘There’s so much we don’t understand about mental illness. But there are still people inside there. Whatever might have happened to this’ — she taps her head — ‘the heart remains the same.'”
**One trigger warning (that I also believe is another great conversational event): There is a sexual assault that occurs in the novel between two young boys–an older boy who is engaging in bullying behaviors, and a younger boy who is at the mercy of his cruel behavior. This scene shook me and required me to step back from the book for a minute to process what had just taken place. I was fuming–so angry and feeling like justice was not provided to that child that was assaulted. But guys… this was such a shining light on current, real issues, no matter how much we want to advert our eyes and attention from them. Most sexual assault scenes in pop culture and literature take place between a man and a woman–typically with the man doing the assaulting actions. However, the statistics do not match what we see portrayed on the pages or screens of our entertainment. Also, as an educator, I receive yearly training on recognizing the signs of sexual abuse in children and a child’s abuser is more times than none a family member or someone close to them, and often times is an older sibling, relative, or friend of the family. This scene was raw and all too real for many young people in our society.
You can find more information on statistics of sexual assault in children and what to
do if you suspect a child is being abused in this manner here: Darkness to Light (PDF)
If you enjoy mysteries and thrillers.. I cannot recommend this novel enough. This was such a different read in comparison to other titles I have read recently and I talked about this story line for days.
*I received an advanced reading (digital) copy of this novel through the author and publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way effects my review and all opinions portrayed here are my own.
**I also purchased a hardback copy of this book on my own through the Book of the Month Club subscription.