The Third Parent by Elias Witherow is a novel of extreme horror, fantasy, and a cry for social responsibility when bad things happen. Neighbors should help neighbors. Teachers should investigate situations where something is obviously out-of-whack. Parents should always be able to protect their children. The novel opens with the transcript of a 911 call. A situation has already gone too far so there is a plea for help. But this situation was beyond police help.
Many of us have seen films and heard of home invasions. The home invaders usually leave in a relatively short period of time. But not Tommy Taffy. He had come to stay and become a third parent. He would help Mike and Penny raise Jack and Katie. It is not that they needed help, they hadn’t asked for it, in fact, they wanted Tommy to leave. But Tommy had lessons to teach and was determined to stay. He had rules for the family to follow and terrible consequences for those who didn’t follow his rules. The physically macabre looking Tommy would stay for five years. He not only stayed with the Williams family for five years, he stayed with every family in the immediate neighborhood at the same time. Think clones, the fantasy element and consequences for not following rules, the extreme horror element.
Extreme horror means just that. This is not for the faint of heart. There is an almost insignificant sexual component, nothing extremely offensive. Only the horror is extreme. The novel is not page after page of horror. There are interesting character development sequences inserted between bouts of horror.
Jack begins as the primary narrator at six years old. As he grows and survives his experiences we view all other characters through his eyes. Jack begins as an innocent and later can ascribe his later dissolute, debauched life to trauma inflicted over a long time. Readers may not like Jack at this stage. But there will be a chance at redemption with no guarantee of which way it will go. The opportunity will be provided by means of several choices, some easy, some difficult. Witherow leaves us guessing to the very end as to who will win and who will lose.
Detailed content can’t be described; that would be too many spoilers. But this novel will keep you up at night so be careful of when you start it.