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A Good and Happy Child

3.44  ·  Rating details ·  3,352 ratings  ·  553 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
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published May 22nd 2007 by Shaye Areheart Books (first published 2007)
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Average rating 3.44  · 
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 ·  3,352 ratings  ·  553 reviews

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Jan 31, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: horror
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
Sep 05, 2007 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
Jul 13, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
Scott Rhee
Sep 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is one I read in 2011, so I can't recall the details, but I remember it being a decent novel about exorcism. While it did have its creepy parts, I remember it more for being more of a character study of someone who may or may not be mentally ill. It was a very compassionate and moving portrayal, so it may not appeal to someone looking for the scares of William Peter Blatty's "The Exorcist" or movies like "The Last Exorcism".

Justin Evans's "A Good and Happy Child" is a remarkable achievemen
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
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
Aug 19, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
May 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 05, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: quirky-fiction
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
Oct 01, 2007 rated it did not like it
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?
Mar 26, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: thriller
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.

Nate's Bookgroup
Jan 03, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Lisa Westerfield
Feb 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
May 09, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 26, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 13, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
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
Mar 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 03, 2012 rated it it was ok
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.

Aug 03, 2011 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ah, the great debate between demonic possession and psychology. Is it all in the victim's head or is it really the force of something sinister?

I've seen many films about demonic possession and while they try to throw in the psychological aspect, they still tend to lean towards the supernatural. The book however, managed to keep the supernatural and the science in perfect balance. Both sides are equally convincing.

Personally, I've always been a fan of such ambiguity and if you are too, you'll fin
Dec 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is an intelligent thriller about denial and guilt and possibly demonic possession.
Jul 27, 2020 rated it did not like it
Didn’t enjoy this book at all! However I didn’t give up on it but was glad when it was finished. There was nothing to make you want to read on so found it hard to want to pick
It up to carry on reading
Aug 12, 2019 rated it did not like it
I really wish i had enjoyed this more as i am a fan of the edition i owned, but you cant judge the story by the cover and I just found the whole thing, (characters, plot, dialoge) rather annoying.
Jonathan Briggs
Apr 16, 2012 rated it liked it
George Davies can't bring himself to hold his newborn child. He can barely force himself to touch the little tyke. Well, of course, that makes sense: Babies are a mess, always covered in snot and drool and puke and stuff that's even more disgusting. Who'd wanna touch that? But George thinks he has a problem, so he takes it to a therapist. In the process, he begins "remembering rotten things" from his own unhappy childhood...

Young George is overweight, unpopular, smarter than his (non)peers, pick
Oct 14, 2014 rated it it was ok
Debut author Evans decided to write a book mostly told from the point-of-view of an eleven-year-old boy who seems to suffer from some kind of mental illness. George has an imaginary 'friend' who is very real to him, and he listens to his compelling voice in his head, what the psychologists call a 'command auditory hallucination.' His mother and psychiatrist believe that his neurosis has been brought on by his father's recent death. But his father was a Medievalist who believed that the world had ...more
Paul Patterson
Jan 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Selvianty Yusuf
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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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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“[...] 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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