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A Choir of Ill Children

3.73  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,292 Ratings  ·  132 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
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ebook, 225 pages
Published June 1st 2004 by Bantam (first published 2003)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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karen
**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
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TK421
Oct 11, 2012 TK421 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror-thriller
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
Oct 26, 2011 Krok Zero rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fall-2011
Oy.

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
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Melki
Oct 07, 2013 Melki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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
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Quentin Wallace
Aug 04, 2015 Quentin Wallace rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was something. It was one of the weirdest books I've ever read, but at the same time it was very compelling and interesting. I don't know how to start here, but I'll try.

At it's core this is a southern gothic novel. The main character has a brother, or brotherS rather. It's three brothers who share one brain. Then we have a witch that lives out in the bayou, who gives the MC her daughter as a gift. There's two documentary film makers who live with the MC with the idea of doing a movie
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Tfitoby
Sep 23, 2015 Tfitoby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lit
Bloody weird stuff goes on in Kingdom Come it seems. I have zero frame of reference for this bleak apparently Southern Gothic tale from Tom Piccirilli. Thomas is haunted by his past and his present, the skeletons in his family closet, with dreams like reality and reality like a dream, time flows at an unknown rate, people are drawn to our protagonist and then get forgotten about, their lives almost always spiralling out of control. It's been compared to the literature of O'Connor and Faulkner an ...more
Garrett Cook
Jul 15, 2010 Garrett Cook rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Keith Deininger
Aug 20, 2015 Keith Deininger rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Strange and disturbing. Odd. Loved the emotionally detached narration. There's some really good writing here. Everyone defines horror differently; for me this is horror.
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
Squire
Jul 18, 2015 Squire rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first novel-length work by Tom Piccirilli I've read, though I have read quite a few of his shorter works and some of his poetry.

A Choir of Ill Children is a beautifully-written, disturbing and creepy gothic jambalaya of conjoined triplets sharing one brain, swamp whores and voodoo ritual that just misses the mark due to a narrator that is at the heart of this heady mash, but never seems too fearful of the madness and death that is descending upon his town. That lack of fearfulness ma
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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
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Erin
Jan 07, 2013 Erin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Martha
Oct 12, 2010 Martha rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Rebecca
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
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Jauncheeto
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
Nate
Sep 28, 2015 Nate rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
Haunting, beautiful, and horrific, I had no choice but to give this book 5 stars. This ranks up there with Suttree and The Long Home as a far out Southern tale steeped in a family's past. That is not to say this books is merely reminiscent of other Southern literature greats, as Tom Piccirilli brings his own voice in spades. With witchcraft, ghosts, and torments of the human variety, this book brought it all. Highly recommended to anyone with a strong stomach looking for a good time.
Marc-Antoine
Aug 22, 2015 Marc-Antoine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like reading about someone's nightmare yet being left as unsettled as if it had been your own.
Addy
Jul 21, 2013 Addy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
Greg Fisher
Jul 01, 2007 Greg Fisher rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror
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
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Tim Niland
Oct 15, 2012 Tim Niland rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
William M.
Jun 28, 2011 William M. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror
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.
Susan Sullivan
Apr 02, 2015 Susan Sullivan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.

So
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Lynn
Jul 31, 2015 Lynn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Crazy smash up of Southern Gothic, Paranormal and Horror, but what really struck me was how good the writing was. The writing was so rich and inventive I can understand why people compare this to great Southern writers' work, but it stands alone. I probably need to read it again to better appreciate the plot (since I never found it first time around). Very original ideas and images that will stay with me.
Horace Derwent
May 20, 2016 Horace Derwent rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Piccirilli the Obscure
Jessica T.
This had everything my twisted heart loves.. freaks, ghosts, pregnant nuns, and cocaine. I highly enjoyed this gothic, backwoods romp!
Beth Roberts
While I thought from the summary blurb this book sounded intriguing, I was in for quite a surprise nonetheless.

I suppose this is probably classified as Horror. I've seen it compared to Flannery O'Connor and other southern gothic authors of that ilk. I think it's more genre-bending than the surface would appear.

This book is bizarre - but in the very best sense of the word. The things I felt most strongly are things I've seen other reviewers use to its detraction.

Yes, this book skips around. Yes,
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Bibliophile
May 30, 2014 Bibliophile rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Leslee
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
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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.” 10 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.” 2 likes
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