The Disembodied by Anthony Hains fits in the genre of Young Adult (YA) so I decided to read it with my fourteen-year-old-son, Kristopher. As of this posting, he has yet to finish the book but he has found it interesting. I will be careful with spoilers and will edit this post with his comments after we discuss it.
This novel is intriguing from the start. In chapter one, we read the remembrances of a grandfather. He is not identified and we might conclude he is the main actor, but not true. We are given hints that the central character will be the grandson, but he is not named. Chapter two identifies the grandfather, Soren, and the grandson, Griffin. Soren is the narrator in chapters one, six, eight, and eleven. This is a point for later reader reflection. Chapter two is character heavy as we learn more about Veronica, an aunt, Shelley, Griffin’s mom, and Ralph, Griffin’s dad, who nobody likes, including Griffin. Soren, Shelley, and Tanner are the only people Griffin cares about in the world. He hates his father (Ralph) just like Tanner hates his father (Murray). Both Griffin and Tanner are in extremely abusive family relationships. For Griffin, the escape is to listen to tales from Grandpa Soren. Soren relates tales from the past that deal with myths and the occult. Although the stories are about different periods in the past, there are points in common; the red-haired boy and the gray man.
Soren is a great storyteller; anyone would be interested in his tales. But for Griffin, there is something more. Frequent out-of-body experiences rob time from Griffin, he has blackouts similar to those of an alcoholic. These “timeouts” will be referred to throughout the novel by various names. Depersonalization, bipolar disorder, and multiple personalities all refer to the problems for which Griffin will visit a mental health professional. While absent from the real world, he has experiences that he can’t quite remember. As he hears more stories from Soren, the experiences from his dream states become more coherent. More and more the dreams are connected.
The depictions of abuse meted out to Tanner and Griffin by their fathers and a neighborhood pedophile are graphic but, unfortunately, still within the boundaries of the YA genre. As a parent who has never punished my son with any physical contact, I cannot imagine the mindset of the fathers in this story. This has become a topic of discussion with my son.
There are no parts of the book in which the action is slow. Then, at about the 90% point, the surprises just keep coming. One spoiler would not ruin the book for a reader because there are lots more surprises to come. But I won’t write even that one spoiler. A reader can’t go to that 90% part to get straight to the surprises; they won’t make sense. This is a very well-crafted story with lots of suspense leading to an ending that won’t make everyone happy. It is well worth the read.