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A Good and Happy Child

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3.4 of 5 stars 3.40  ·  rating details  ·  2,328 ratings  ·  441 reviews
Thirty-year-old George Davies can’t bring himself to hold his newborn son. After months of accepting his lame excuses and strange behavior, his wife has had enough. She demands that he see a therapist, and George, desperate to save his unraveling marriage and redeem himself as a father and husband, reluctantly agrees.

As he delves into his childhood memories, he begins to
...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published May 22nd 2007 by Shaye Areheart Books (first published January 1st 2007)
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Now That's REALLY Freakin' Weird...
146th out of 240 books — 355 voters
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Chuckell
Sep 05, 2007 Chuckell added it
Recommends it for: no one.
Shelves: gave-up-on
This is the first book I ever returned to the bookstore on account of overwhelming suckiness. Usually with an especially crappy book--Labyrinth, Special Topics in Calamity Physics, and The Librarian are some recent examples--I'll just scribble a curse on the title page and leave the book next to a trashcan on the street. But this book is so aggressively bad that it wasn’t enough to simply discard it--no, I wanted my money back. Whatever made me buy a first novel by “a strategy and business devel ...more
Claire Monahan
Jul 23, 2008 Claire Monahan rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: demons, people who need an exorcism
This is one of those reads that make me slap myself for judging books by their covers. The demonic sketches, the swirling red and orange - you have to admit the cover seems scintillating.

Believe me, it lies. Must be the Satanic influence?

George Davies has an issue that makes him freak out every time he gets near his newborn son, so he starts to see a shrink to find out what the hell happened to him (I'm sorry, the puns are just too easy). Of course, it all goes back to his childhood and fault of
...more
Theresa Leone Davidson
A very good novel by first time author Justin Evans, A Good and Happy Child is not scary like The Exorcist is, although it reminds the reader of that novel, with its main theme of demonic possession. The suspense in this is the quieter kind, the creepiness slower to build but just as effective. The central character, George Davies, is an adult with a newborn. He finds himself unable to hold his child and seeks psychiatric help. His doctor instructs him to begin writing in journals about his chil ...more
Marvin
This is an excellent book that teases the reader into wondering if it is a psychological thriller or a supernatural horror novel. How you interpret it will depend on what psychological baggage you bring into this book with you. The narrator is a young man who goes to a therapist because he cannot bring himself to hold his own newborn child. His journaling reveals a childhood past in which he was either very disturbed, possessed by a demon, or perhaps both. The narrator is very unreliable as is t ...more
Jen
Probably 4.5 stars. Just not 5 because it's too scary and creepy for everyone, and I'd rather keep 5s for books that I'd recommend to ANYONE. In fact, I think this book was too creepy for me! It was so well written and what a plot. Twists and turns... it was one wild ride. I couldn't put it down, and when I had to, late at night after everyone was asleep except me and the baby, I was freaked out. When I finished it this morning, I felt dizzy, like I had just gotten off a roller coaster. i can't ...more
Megan
Maybe a 3.5, actually. This book got creepier as it went along. I started out kind of luke-warm about it, as the child protagonist just did not have a believable voice, to me. But I did get dragged into the story. It begins with George as an adult, who goes to a psychiatrist to deal with the issues he is having with an inability to interact with his baby son. The psychiatrist gets him to fill notebooks with stories from his childhood, each notebook revealing a more disturbing portrait of our pro ...more
rachel
This is the book equivalent of a PG-13, big studio horror movie. There are little moments here and there to make you think, Huh. Maybe this is going new places. But then it ends up being as sanitized and predictable as every other PG-13 horror movie you've ever seen, because there's only so much you can do creatively within the constraints of this certain type of storytelling.

And there's only so much you can do with a modern-day possession story.

I mean, there's a reason most of the blurbs for t
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Bill
Um...I've been an atheist for a few years now and it's made for many great strides forward for me in many aspects of my adult life.

Perhaps the only downside to atheism is that "spooky" stuff just isn't scary anymore.

This is a book about demon possession and general devilry! YIKES!

It is well written and interesting...and if exorcisms and naughty demons still have some hold on you, it'll probably be pretty scary.

If you don't believe in devils or angels...this will be as scary as a book about dra
...more
Elaine
Like The Body in the Ivy, which I read just before, this novel simply ended too soon. It was almost as though the author got bored around page 288 (out of 320) and said "All right, let's wrap this up. I have no idea what a good ending would be, so let's kill off __________ , work in a hysterical run through Manhattan at night and end up ____________________." Don't worry, no spoilers. Spoilers would mean the story had a conclusion that revealed something. This one has a conclusion. Sort of.

Some
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Midwestocean
George Davies has been having some issues since the birth of his first child. Unlike the doting parent he was when his wife was pregnant, he has become almost afraid to be around his infant son. Much to his wife’s dismay he won’t even touch the child thus he agrees to seek counseling and within the first session the therapist discovers that George’s father died when he was eleven. Thinking that this is significant, since George confesses that he was in therapy for a while afterwards, his psychot ...more
Nate's Bookgroup
Yeah, I could just sum up the book by saying that the narrator was possessed by a demon as a boy, but after finishing the book I realize its not that simple. This book could have gone capital S Spooky and explained the strange incidents of George, the narrator's, boyhood with some remarkable evidence proving the demon in question existed, but the author decided to leave it as a big question mark. This book brought up some interesting questions: Do humans create Evil or does Evil exist outside of ...more
Ailsa
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Molly
A terrific read. Asks lots of questions about the validity of demonic possesion v/s modern psychology. Whether you get into the deeper metaphysical questions or not, it's still a pretty thrilling, spooky story. George, and his wife Maggie have just had a baby. George finds that he is incapable of picking the child up. He goes to a psychologist who asks him to start journalling. Through George's journals, we get the story of his father's death, and the aftermath. George is eleven when his father ...more
Rose
Oct 03, 2007 Rose rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: No one
I absolutely could not finish this book. Made it to page 100 and had to put it down. I dreaded picking it back up. It was disjointed, could careless about the characters. It had no feeling or rhythm. I bought this book based on countless good reviews,which usually steer me right, but not this time. Is this a psychological book or a book about possession of demons? That's the question. The answer: Who even cares?
Alexandra
I am so confused. o.0

This book went from being about one thing to being entirely about another. Idgi.

I couldn't wait to get to the end to get some kind of explanation and then all I got was more confusion.

Oh well.

The shower door scene was terrifying though, I will say. Other than that this was kind of a dud. Too many different characters and plot points and just dfgijoigj. No

I am very disappointed.

Melissa
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Paul Patterson
A Good and Happy Child by Justin Evans has antecedents in both style and theme. Reviewers mention Tartt's The Secret History, and the Exorcist but I find that this book is more akin to The Turning of the Screw and, more recently, Sarah Water's The Little Stranger. The reason I find a resemblance between A Good and Happy Child and these two works lies in the layered literary writing and subtlty that they share. The Exoricist is far to explicit and exploitive to really compare with Evans; Tartt's ...more
Laura
Well, okay... I'm not sure where to start. I guess I'll start by saying, first, I really liked the book, and second, it gave me nightmares.

It's essentially about a man recalling about a 6 month period of his childhood, he was 11 years old. He hashes through this in therapy because he's afraid of holding his newborn son.

During this period, shortly after his father passes away, he begins having visions and acting out. There are two camps, one that thinks he needs psychiatric help and another that
...more
Kirsten
George Davies can't bring himself to hold his newborn son, to the point that it is destroying his marriage. Entering counseling for what he views hopefully as "more of a hang-up" than anything serious, he uncovers strange and frightening events from his childhood that he had willfully shut out of his memory.

The young George Davies' father died when he was 11, under mysterious circumstances. Now George is experiencing strange hallucinations of a Friend who comes to him at night and tells him sini
...more
Kevin
If you read through reviews you'll find that people complain about this book being vague on some things, slowly paced, the "unresolved" ending, insufficiently scary, no horror, no impact, no bigger picture, too "intellectual", etc.

I'm going to go ahead and say that I can understand all those criticisms but don't think they're valid. It's meant to be a slow burn, it's not meant to be terrifying, and I think the big picture is the discussion about mental health afflictions versus spiritual ones: w
...more
Jillian
Creeeeepy book. Raises some really good questions about modern psychology, mental health, religion, and the existence of demons in our world. It forces you to evaluate your ideas about logic/reason and emotion/faith.

Being the nerd that I am, I wrote my undergraduate thesis on Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe--two female medieval mystics who both claimed to receive visions from God. So, the element of mysticism in this book really piqued my interest. I especially liked the idea that mysticism
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christa
It's amazing the way one good sentence can give a book momentum. Early in the novel "A Good and Happy Child" by Justin Evans, there is a description of the way the main character's family lives:

"It was a house halfway between this and that, between upper-middle-class luxuries and absentminded squalor."

This is how we live. It made me feel like our mail-covered dining room table and the books and Gatorade bottles next to the bed aren't the mark of lazy gross people. It is interesting and intellec
...more
Craig
I picked up this book because I'd heard it described as "a modern Rosemary's Baby", but quickly discovered that it's so much more than that. The author immediately sets a tone of dread and tension, and you know in the first few pages that some seriously bad sh*t is going to go down, but are filled with tension speculating on the details... The story that ultimately unfolds was not quite what I expected, which I view as a positive - I was constantly torn between putting the book down because I wa ...more
Justin Bog
This novel mesmerized me to no end . . . gifted to me by a friend after he read it on vacation, I opened the book with not a little skepticism. I had never heard of the author or the book; it had somehow escaped my searches for new horror titles on Amazon, and this was, eventually, a welcome turn of events. Buy it and read it and understand how great the story is. How smart. How clever. How insistent the monster is. Loved it and will return to read again.
Jill
Wow.

This may be the creepiest book I've ever read. I don't think it had the "horror" of a Stephen King novel, and it didn't have the "this-is-really-disturbing" factor of We Need To Talk About Kevin, but it was somewhere in between. Just looking at the cover made me uneasy. I'll admit, I do scare easily, and this book was no exception. There were times when I actually needed my husband to stay in the room with me after I had finished reading for the night. I even had a quasi-nightmare about spid
...more
Nancy
Jun 17, 2009 Nancy rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Nancy by: Swiped from Laura
The good and happy child may be mostly good, but he's not happy.
George Davies can't bring himself to be close to his child because he might infect him, and not with a dread disease, but with demonic possession. This is the first book I've read which might be called "experiencing serial possession."
As hackneyed as it sounds, love is the answer here. George lives through a tough childhood, grappling with his demons. In the end, love may be just the thing to vanquish them.
We all have these demo
...more
Christi
Creeped me right the heck out. I think whether you like this book or not will depend on where your particular fear bone is located. It got me just right. I believe this book appeals to a very specific type of person. If it gets you, it gets you good. If not you probably won't care for it. Also it's kind of a slow build so give it a bit of time.
Sonia
May 17, 2010 Sonia rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: have
This book is so intelligent and well-written that I would have probably given it three stars for that alone, but the subject matter and the handling of that matter were a complete win for me. I love novels which create a suspension of belief. Even when this novel ends, I'm left feeling a little leery and uncertain as to what has happened, but in the best possible way because it was intentional.

The only thing that caused me any discomfort during the read were the modern day chapters involving Geo
...more
Ellen Herbert
Now this is a proper ghost story. Perfect for the season and one that guarantees a sleepless night and a fair amount of , 'Wait, what was that?'. A father who can't hold his own baby, transcriptions of sessions with an analyst and pesky repressed memories. Add a bit of fundamentalism, a dash of old time religion and prepare for a wonderful creepy ride.
Barb Edwards
Disappointing. I liked how the novel went from past to present but I don't think some of the relationships were well explained. Was George's dad a mystic or demon possessed? Why wasn't the difference explained? Too vague. After George and his mother moved away did the demon that had ruined their lives disappear? Why? As an adult he visits a therapist because he can't touch his newborn son and in journaling about his past a demonic possession from when he was 11 is remembered. I could see someone ...more
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Whis book was creepy. I wonder why it hasn't been made into a film yet. 1 8 May 11, 2012 12:03PM  
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Justin Evans is a digital media executive based in New York City where he lives with his family. He received a BA in English from Columbia University and a MBA in Finance from NYU Stern. His first novel, A Good and Happy Child, was named a Best Book of 2007 by the Washington Post, was translated into six languages, and optioned by a major film studio. Justin attended Harrow School for one year at ...more
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“dream interpretation were ways of converting our little personal miseries into big robust myths” 4 likes
“[...] and I said to myself: Aha. George used to have a way of coping."
"When?" I said, confused. "You mean, when I was a kid?"
"Have you ever heard," you said, "of the idea of the shadow self?"
Sure, I told you. It was one of the Jungian archetypes—one of the symbols of the collective unconscious. That was pretty much all I remembered from college.
"Not bad. Do you know what function it plays, in analysis?" you asked. I shook my head. You continued. "The shadow is a frequent figure in dreams. It can appear as a kind of doppelgänger; an evil twin. It embodies our repressed desires. The dark stuff. The shameful stuff. The you-want-to-fuck-your-mother stuff." (48)”
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