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A Choir of Ill Children

3.77 of 5 stars 3.77  ·  rating details  ·  978 ratings  ·  96 reviews
BONUS: This edition contains an excerpt from Tom Piccirilli's The Last Kind Words.

This lyrical tale of evil, loss, and redemption is a stunning addition to the Southern gothic tradition of Flannery O’Connor and Harry Crews.

A Choir of Ill Children is the startling story of Kingdom Come, a decaying, swamp backwater that draws the lost, ill-fated, and damned.

Since his mothe
ebook, 225 pages
Published June 1st 2004 by Bantam (first published 2003)
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**review amended to include deborah's thoughts, because even though we gave it the same amount of stars, i did not do a good enough job reviewing.

"...listen to me - things are different down here. This is the deep South. There are laws that don't apply."
"You're an ugly, disgusting people."
"No worse than most I'd guess."

krok zero hated this book.

and i understand his problems with it - when something is compared to faulkner and flannery o'connor, you have certain expectations as a reader, and wh
I’m sure that your reading list is plenty long, but this book needs to be moved to the top of the pile. This book is not for the faint of heart, for it is quite challenging. Think William Faulkner mixed with Flannery O’Connor and you’ll get a pretty good picture at Piccirilli’s writing-style. The language of the novel is both horrifying and beautiful, and if you can keep from reading the same passages over and over, because of how he constructed and mixed seemingly disconnected words and images, ...more
Krok Zero

So it's October, and that's when you're supposed to read horror fiction, right? And I always feel like I should be reading horror, should be unearthing the good stuff, because I like horror movies and in theory the genre appeals to me, but in practice I have never really come across a horror novel that has served my particular literary needs. Unless you count Shirley Jackson, which I guess I don't, because the only genre she belongs to is the genre of the fucking sublime.

But I sometimes give
Well, there's plenty of weird stuff here.

Conjoined triplets, a conjure woman's daughter traded into being their concubine, a naked minister, an oversexed, lusty librarian and a college student who wants to use them all in a porno film. Yeah. This is not your typical book club selection, though I'd love to see the old gals discussing this one over their wine and cheesecake.

Like a visit to the carnival freak show or one of those TV documentaries about obese infants and 300-pound tumors, the whole
Anthony Chavez
This book is definitely not for the faint of heart or one who shys away from horror. There are a lot of elements for a great book, but in my opinion the story doesn't really go anywhere, the first half was a trial, the second half got better but there was a lot left unresolved and it left me saying, "ugh..." and scratching my head. Maybe I should have started my Piccirilli journey with "The Night Class," or "The Dead Letters" as they were both Bram Stoker Award winners.

=Begin my attempt at a plo
Garrett Cook
A Choir of Ill Children is one of the best, most unique crime novels that I have ever had the pleasure of reading. A story of corruption, perversity and despair set in the Deep South featuring psychic triplets, hipster documentarians drawn into the heart of darkness, hedge magic, bikers and the Holy Order of the Flying Wallendas, this book never ceases to surprise. Highly recommended.
Evans Light
All finished. Enjoyed it, but can't really recommend it to anyone except for those seeking a doctoral thesis on metaphors and similes. Quite a fine bit of writing, but horror? Not so much. I found the narrator to be quite jovial in the midst of madness, nary a flicker of fear or dread to be found within these pages. Weird and somewhat disturbing imagery and circumstances, yes. Scary, no. It was a very mentally stimulating read, almost a bit too rich. Even though it was a short book, the thicknes ...more
Oct 12, 2010 Martha rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of more literary-style horror
Shelves: horror, favorites
Wow! This book is crazy! Beautifully written, powerful read with a heavy impact, but still a nice, short book. It starts out like a punch to the face and doesn't let up. Piccirilli writes in a lyrical, blunt style that doesn't go for shock value exactly, the narrator is just telling you about his life with no sugar-coating. He's not trying to garner sympathy or horrify you, this is just what happened as he sees it. It just is. To see if you'd like this book's style, read the first 4 or 5 pages o ...more
I'm an international bastard.. Or a third culture kid, whichever one you wanna call it. Out of all the places I've been, and all the things I've seen, stories about the Deep South fascinate me most. The things these people experience, their dialects, their culture and way of life- it's too much for me to comprehend and fully appreciate, but I still love it madly. I find that any character who speaks in a southern slang, whose grown up tussling with alligators and never heard a foreign tongue- is ...more
K.Z. Snow
Gotta say, the author's an impressive prose stylist, but I'm already getting the brain jits reading this. There's "bizarre," and then there's "OMFGWTF!" . . . with spoiled cherries on top.

I'm certainly intrigued enough to keep reading, though.

Okay, still reading. Murder and mayhem within kudzu vines of prose. It's slow going. I have to keep stopping because this book makes me queasy. In addition, I have little idea what's going on. Or if anything's going on.

This has been an odd reading experienc
I like Southern gothic novels as much as the next person, but "A Choir of Ill Children" was too strange and disturbing to be enjoyable. And what was it supposed to be anyway? I'm not sure Southern Gothic fits. Paranormal might work but the thing with paranormal is that, in the end, it needs to make sense.

This is the story of Thomas, the son of the only wealthy person in a small deep south town. Thomas's parents are dead, his grandmother was killed on the roof of a church with a reaping blade (ne
Greg Fisher
This is one of my absolute favorite novels of all time. It's a Southern gothic novel.

Years ago when Tom's father committed suicide, Tom inherited the Mill, making him the town patriarch, filling a role his family has always held since Kingdom Come was founded. It also puts him in charge of his brothers, conjoined triplets joined at the frontal lobe and constantly facing each other. Now dire portents of strife have appeared and Velma Coots calls upon him to do his duty to the town by providing s
Piccirilli is a good writer, but this was just a little too kitchen-sink Southern gothic for my taste. Everyone in Kingdom Come is a horribly damaged or deranged freak and nothing makes much sense. Definitely Flannery O'Connor mixed with Twin Peaks territory here, but perhaps what bothered me most was the ending....I honestly have no idea why anything in the final chapter came to pass, while I get the climax, what was the purpose? Perhaps it's just supposed to be experienced without looking too ...more
I would like to give it a 3.5, but I can't so I settled for a 3. If I had the time to dive into the deepness of this novel, I probably would have enjoyed it more. The writing itself was beautiful and flowed. However, I just don't and would have preferred a more entertaining novel. There were some unanswered questions. It seemed like that wasn't fair since I felt as though I was getting dragged through this book if only for an answer. It was confusing too. I would still give him another shot thou ...more
Susan Sullivan
I liked this book a lot and couldn't put it down. It's exactly like the blurbs tout: weird, disturbing, unsettling and creepy. The book is actually in the Southern Gothic genre, which is not the same as horror, something that some reviewers have been confused about. The secrets from the past come back to roost and haunt the characters in the present. There are bizarre characters and situations. And it's set in the Deep South in a backwoods small town. These are all Southern Gothic trademarks.

Paula Hartman-Carlo
The language is poetic and the characters are well-developed but the story doesn't seem to go anywhere. I'll admit that I couldn't finish the book; I got about half-way through it and said to hell with it. It just meandered too much.
Thomas is the wealthiest guy in the county, as well as the mill-owner, carrier of family secrets, digger of screwworms and caretaker of his brothers, the conjoined triplets. He also looks after his buddy Drabs Speaks-In-Tongues Bibbler and keeps an eye on two New York hipster filmmakers who want to make a porno with the triplets. That's a lot of responsibility for one person, so it's no wonder Thomas releases tension with the help of young girls and the horny town librarian.

This daily routine i
If you had sunstroke and were laid up in a makeshift shack in the middle of the steamy, Louisiana swamp, I would imagine that the nightmarish dreams of your fevered mind would take form similar to the plotline of Tom Piccirilli's A Choir of Ill Children. This is not your Mother's 'Southern Gothic' tale - this is definitely dark, and horrific, but still poetic and beautiful in its own right.

You can definitely see the roots of his work here in William Faulkner and Flannery O'Connor - two of the S
Charles Dee Mitchell
The town of Kingdom Come is located in Potts County. I don't think a state is ever mentioned, but I believe then whole territory exists somewhere in the swampy backwaters of Tom Piccirilli's brain. Reviewer's mention Southern Gothic and Flannery O'Connor. This could be a lost O'Connor work assuming she one day found psilocybin mushrooms growing in the peacock shit on the farm.

Tom is the scion of the family that founded Kingdom Come. His family history includes murder, suicide, disappearances, an
Shanna Germain
The first time I read "A Choir of Ill Children," I couldn't breathe whenever I had the book open. I would read as much as I could, the pulse thrumming hard in my head, the words beating their otherwordly chorus against my brain and then, when my lungs couldn't take any more, I would close the book and take huge, gulping, tear-stained breaths. This is the kind of reaction that Piccirilli's words and characters invoked in me when I first read this novel six years ago, and it's the kind of reaction ...more
Tim Niland
This is one of Tom Piccirilli's earlier novels, when he was still concentrating on horror fiction and gradually moving toward noir. They both have elements in this story, which is set in a sleepy small southern town wracked by poverty and superstition. Thomas is the scion of the towns wealthy family, owner of the mill and a large house outside of town. He has three brothers who are conjoined triplets all connected to an enormous brain shared by the three of them. The spooky atmospherics of the t ...more
Tom Piccirilli has written this novel in nearly a poetic, lyrical style. The gothic setting of the Southern town of Kingdom Come is the perfect backdrop for this tale of madness, evil, conjure women, and secrets galore.

If you're looking for an easy read, this is not the book for you. However, those that like a mental challenge while reading will probably appreciate this strange tale where age-old mysteries, and the fantastic collide.

The best word to describe this book is bizarre but that doesnt mean that it is bad. It is the first Southern Gothic I have ever read and to my surprise I enjoyed it and I couldn't but it down until I finished it. It showed me a side of America I didn't know much about.

I admit that the end was a bit disappointing and there were many events that were not related to the main story line. Which makes you wonder why are they even there. I also admit that I felt lost sometimes and I didn't understand s
Jessica T.
This had everything my twisted heart loves.. freaks, ghosts, pregnant nuns, and cocaine. I highly enjoyed this gothic, backwoods romp!
William M.
Never has a book by Tom Piccirilli come together more beautifully. His characters, his prose, and his story are captivating from beginning to end. Tom definitely deserves a Bram Stoker award for this, or at the very least, a nomination. I can't tell you how great a writer Tom is and I urge you to give A Choir Of Ill Children a try. Disturbing and beautiful at the same time, this novel pushes open the bountries of modern horror fiction and gives the genre more legitimacy than ever.
This is probably the first time that I gave a book a rating of One star. I picked it up randomly after browsing a "best horror" book list and was disappointed. It sounded interesting and I really wanted to like it. The writing itself was interesting and poetic, but the story just didn't do nothing for me at all. Towards the end of the book I was hoping for a really awesome finish, but to no avail. It is definately a weird book, but I wouldn't recommend it to anybody at all.
Michael Whitaker
It's hard to keep expectations in check when the back of the book compares the author to Harry Crews and Flannery O'Connor.

I see the connections, sure: southern, grotesque, mysticism, ghosts.

But those are large, vague similarities.

The back of the book also claims this to be a lyrical, ghastly horror novel.

That, too, is a stretch. It's a horror in the sense of the grotesque, the ghosts.

So, I don't know what to say. The novel moves slowly and yet I couldn't put it down.

I was disappointed that I
Southern gothic horror is a special kind of horror. It has no ghosts or demons, just the humans at their most monstrous. And that's what this book is about - people that look like monsters and people who act like monsters while looking perfectly harmless. The demons are plentiful but not supernatural, in fact, it's nature at it's best and worst that makes this book so darn scary.
Will Jenkins
I wanted so badly to give this book a higher rating. Throughout the bulk of the book, the author keeps you engaged in multiple mysteries and creepy situations that happen in the sleepy Southern town of Kingdom Come: conjoined triplets, several unsolved murders, a coven of witches and even a religion based on the Flying Wallendas. Piccirilli does a great job of keeping all of these plates spinning for the first 150 pages or so, maintaining a constant feeling of dread as you read about these broke ...more
It’s been a couple of weeks since I finished this book. I didn’t trust myself to review it immediately after finishing it because I don’t think I’ve ever read a book quite like it. Oddly, ‘Geek Love’ by Katherine Dunn is probably the nearest in tone, although the settings and plots of the two books are wildly different.

The plot is definitely secondary to the tone of the book. It’s gothic, dream-like, sensual, sweaty, and oppressive. With some books, the characters seem to be moving not through a
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“The Crone tires quickly and reaches out for the velvet draperies, sits on the divan, breathing heavily. She's too ancient to have a name any longer. When she coughs you can hear the ages rattling inside her shrunken frame. No human names can cling to her any more- they slip from her dusty shriveled flesh like a young girl's whimsies.” 7 likes
“Ghosts will forever put in appearances, as they should. Our illusions have muscle and meaning. The past returns at midnight, in the heart of our dreams, and the rains and the willows forever remind us of the sacrifices we’ve offered and those we have yet to make.” 1 likes
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