Dark Origins: Herr Graden Book 1 by Bill Hargenrader is very difficult to read as a parent. As the novel begins, thirteen-year-old Hans is waiting in the school nurse office for his mom to arrive and give him an insulin shot. He doesn’t like to do it himself and he has a problem with anyone else, such as the school nurse, giving Hans the shot. Hans waits for hours but mom doesn’t show up as she died in a traffic accident.
Hans is now stuck living in a home with brother Finn and Father. Before mom’s death, Father drank a lot but now the drinking is completely out of control. Blaming Hans for the death of his wife, Father decides he will kill Hans by choking him. Stopping short of killing him, Hans is chained in a basement and given food in a dog serving bowl. Brother Finn is no help and blames Hans for making Father angry. Finn also blames Hans for poor grades, since Hans is not available to do Finn’s homework. Finn blames Hans for damage to his social life since Finn can’t bring girls home with a brother chained in the basement. Hans grows to hate Finn almost as much as he hates Father.
This novel, a first novel to introduce a series, has 13 chapters. Chapters two through twelve are about how Hans put up with and survived his torture (frequent beatings), his insulin dependency, and the obvious mental anguish he had to be going through. As a story of survival, it is inspiring. This novel is worth reading as a stand-alone story even considering that there is a huge, powerful cliffhanger ending. I want to read the next novel which I believe will take place almost 25 years after this one (with the cliffhanger still in place).
The writing style is a reader bonus as it seems Hans is by necessity self-schooled. When he finds a box of university graduate level textbooks and notebooks during his basement captivity, the books expose the reader to some challenging ideas in science and philosophy. This is a satisfying read in terms of content ideas and the resiliency of the human spirit.