Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

The Secret Life of Souls

Rate this book
At the heart of this psychological suspense novel is the haunting depiction of a family’s fall and the extraordinary gifted dog, Caity, who knows the truth.

As the drama unfolds Caity evolves from protector to savior, from scapegoat to prop, and eventually, from avenger to survivor. She is an unselfish soul in a selfish world—and she is written with depth and grace by authors Ketchum and Mckee, who display a profound understanding of a dog’s complex emotions.

With her telling instincts and her capacity for joy and transformative love, Caity joins the pantheon of great dogs in contemporary literature. Eleven year old actress Delia Cross is beautiful, talented, charismatic. A true a star in the making.

Her days are a blur of hard work on ­set, auditions and tutors. Her family—driven, pill­-popping stage mother Pat, wastrel dad Bart, and introverted twin brother Robbie—depends on her for their upscale lifestyle. Delia in turn depends on Caity, her beloved ginger Queensland Heeler—and loyal friend—for the calming private space they share.

Delia is on the verge of a professional break through. But just as the contracts are about to be signed, there is a freak accident that puts Delia in the danger zone with only Caity to protect her.

240 pages, Hardcover

First published November 8, 2016

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Jack Ketchum

204 books2,403 followers
Dallas William Mayr, better known by his pen name Jack Ketchum, was an American horror fiction author. He was the recipient of four Bram Stoker Awards and three further nominations. His novels included Off Season, Offspring, and Red, which were adapted to film. In 2011, Ketchum received the World Horror Convention Grand Master Award for outstanding contribution to the horror genre.

A onetime actor, teacher, literary agent, lumber salesman, and soda jerk, Ketchum credited his childhood love of Elvis Presley, dinosaurs, and horror for getting him through his formative years. He began making up stories at a young age and explained that he spent much time in his room, or in the woods near his house, down by the brook: "[m]y interests [were] books, comics, movies, rock 'n roll, show tunes, TV, dinosaurs [...] pretty much any activity that didn't demand too much socializing, or where I could easily walk away from socializing." He would make up stories using his plastic soldiers, knights, and dinosaurs as the characters.

Later, in his teen years, Ketchum was befriended by Robert Bloch, author of Psycho, who became his mentor.

Ketchum worked many different jobs before completing his first novel (1980's controversial Off Season), including acting as agent for novelist Henry Miller at Scott Meredith Literary Agency.

His decision to eventually concentrate on novel writing was partly fueled by a preference for work that offered stability and longevity.

Ketchum died of cancer on January 24, 2018, in New York City at the age of 71.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
171 (25%)
4 stars
228 (33%)
3 stars
192 (28%)
2 stars
66 (9%)
1 star
19 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 149 reviews
Profile Image for Char.
1,682 reviews1,557 followers
November 10, 2016
What an incredible read!

I've loved the work of Jack Ketchum ever since I read his book The Girl Next Door. In The Secret Life of Souls Jack teams up once again with Lucky McKee and together, they knock this one right out of the park.

The Cross family is as dysfunctional as they come. Pat and Bart, (mom and dad), are busy trying to make their daughter Delia a star and her brother Robbie is mostly ignored. The family dog Caity more or less belongs to Delia alone, and it doesn't take long for the reader to discover that Delia and Caity have a special connection. Caity lives to serve the Cross family, but other than Delia and Robbie, they don't deserve this loyal dog. I'm going to leave off the plot here because this story should be absorbed as the authors intended, not interpreted by a lowly blogger like me.

This book is fast paced and well written. These authors know how to pull on your heart strings and they are not afraid to do so. The characters of the Cross family are so well developed but the more you get to know them-well, you'll see. The dog, though? The dog is the star of this show, and with portions of the story from Caity's point of view, it is no mystery how she's feeling. Many times I found myself wishing I could reach out and pet Caity and call her a good girl. (Who's a good girl, Caity? You are!)

I'm not sure this is a horror story, though parts of it are certainly horrific. What it is for sure though, is a fantastic novel that takes the reader through the full spectrum of emotions: from full blown happiness to acute sadness and all the stops in between. This may even be my favorite book of the year so far. The more I turn it over in my mind, the more sure I am that it will be.

Highly recommended for everyone, but most especially to dog lovers. I think you'll adore The Secret Life of Souls.

You can buy your copy here: The Secret Life of Souls: A Novel

*Thanks to Net Galley and Pegasus Books for the free e-arc of this book in exchange for my honest review. This is it.*

Find this review and others like it at HorrorAfterDark.com.

Profile Image for Laurie  (barksbooks).
1,753 reviews700 followers
January 3, 2017
This review and the rest of the crap I write can be seen @ my blog Bark's Book Nonsense . Stop by and say hey.

Having read Ketchum’s work in the past and watching a few of Lucky McKee's films (May is a must-see, btw), I pretty much read this book with my heart in my throat while I waited for the ball to drop on my head and I was not at all disappointed!

This is a not a feel-good story. Don’t let that lovely cover fool you. It is a story about two terrible, self-absorbed, materialistic people who never should’ve had children. But they did. Twins in fact. Now the twins are eleven and Delia, an actress, is their beautiful little money maker. Robbie is basically ignored while their stage mom drags Delia from job to job to keep up with their luxurious lifestyle and to keep herself supplied in alcohol. Dad stays home and buys himself expensive toys.

Ugh, I DESPISE these people. You will too. But you’re supposed to, so don’t feel bad about it. I sure don’t.

Delia’s only friend is her beloved dog Caity who has her own point of view. Caity is an amazing, fully fleshed out character. Their bond is super tight and extraordinary. It is also beautifully written and completely believable. Terrible things happen, as they do in a Ketchum novel, and I’m not going to spoil any of them. Just know that you will cry even if you think you’re too tough for that and when the story ends you will feel raw, as if you’ve been turned inside out and all of your nerve ending are now exposed. But you will not regret reading through the tough bits to get to the unforgettable end. Trust me on this.

I loved this book. Books like this are the reason I keep reading through all of the “meh” one’s. It is absolutely deserving of all five stars. Delia and Caity will forever be in my heart. Now I’ve got to go and hug my dogs before I get all weepy again.

We are here. We together. We are not alone.

This one might require Daryl.

*I received a copy of this book from Netgalley. Thanks Netgalley :)
Profile Image for Yodamom.
2,003 reviews196 followers
September 26, 2016
Holy Dysfunctional Family Nightmare ! Dog people will love this tale of a dog's love and connection to humans.
There are some seriously deplorable characters inside this book. I was so appalled, livid, angry, furious at them I had trouble turning my ming off when I set the book down. The author is a genius in his ability to drive me to the emotional edge. I felt like I'd walked over hot coals but didn't get burned.
Delia, is a child actor, managed by her power hungry mother, overlooked by her spending father, and resented by her twin ignored brother. Caity, her beloved dog is her best friend, confident, and so much more. When a tragedy after tragedy happens there is one soul that is there for her.
The broken damaged souls twisted my heart into knots. The children, so innocent, or not a product of their world. The dog, loyal, loving and devoted no matter the cost. Her connection to her human deeper than the others.
After finishing this I went and cuddled my dog and gave him an extra treat, and thanked the gods for dogs. Then I needed a drink, what a story.

This was my first book by Jack Ketchum and it will not be the last.
Thank you NetGalley and Pegasus Books for Gifting it to me for review.
Profile Image for Janie.
1,081 reviews
April 6, 2018
I had the good fortune to win this book in a Goodreads giveaway.

This story had a hold on me immediately. It revolves around a family whose daughter is a rising child star. The mother makes sure that the eleven-year-old is always on time for screenings and interviews, encouraging her to look and act perfectly. Delia, the daughter, is a likeable and easy-going child who takes her busy lifestyle in stride. Her twin brother, Robbie, is constantly in the background, yet he can see how their parents are using his sister for their own purposes. The real star here is Caity, the family dog, who is utterly and completely devoted to Delia . When an accident changes everything, Delia's mother continues to push her daughter into the spotlight. Delia is an admirable and strong young lady who is beginning to come into her own. With Caity by her side, she faces the world and hard decisions head-on despite the physical repercussions that the accident has marked her with. As the family's story continues, many emotions are elicited. The power of this story is in its ability to immerse the reader fully in its midst. I felt anger, shock, sadness, and, ultimately, downright enthusiasm when a sort of justice was served. This book is about the preternatural bond between a dog and the two family members who adore her. It will remain in my memory for quite some time.
Profile Image for Bill.
1,597 reviews112 followers
November 15, 2016
This one is most difficult to categorize.
Not horror. But horrific at times.
Drama elements, for sure.
Suspense, definitely.
And a suggestion of the supernatural.
So, what is it then?
A tragic, heartbreaking, tale of revenge, loss, life and love.
And a young girl and her amazing dog.

“Good dog.”

*I receive an advanced reader copy of this title from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This was it.
Profile Image for Mogsy.
2,075 reviews2,636 followers
November 27, 2016
4 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2016/11/27/...

The first time I ever laid eyes on The Secret Life of Souls, I actually thought it would be a contemporary feel-good story about dogs. But then again, I’ve also never read a Jack Ketchum novel before, and was completely unfamiliar with his work. A quick search on Goodreads brought me to his author bio (which proudly proclaims that his first book Off Season was once scolded by the Village Voice for being “violent pornography”), prompting a swift re-evaluation of my first impression. Still, nothing could have prepared me for what was to come. Short this book might have been, but sweet it wasn’t. And while it might not have been strictly horror, certain parts of it were certainly horrifying.

The story begins with an introduction to Delia Cross, her twin brother Robbie, their dad Bart, and mom Pat. Talk about your dysfunctional family! On the surface, everything looks copacetic. Delia is a talented child actor, already making a name for herself at eleven years old. In fact, she’s so successful that she’s the sole breadwinner for her entire family. Pat, a former drama student, is now living a life of stardom vicariously through her daughter, pushing Delia hard through her numerous appointments and driving them both to and from auditions and film shoots. Bart on the other hand does nothing but spends his days in the garage obsessing over his muscle car and shopping online for “great deals”, squandering his daughter’s earnings on things they don’t need. And when it comes to quiet and mild-mannered Robbie, it would appear he is happy as long as his family is happy, apparently content to let his sister take all the attention.

But underneath this picture of success is a festering bitterness, and everyone around Delia is too self-absorbed or in denial to see the truth. The only one who seems to have any clue what’s going on is Caity, the Crosses’ two-year-old Queensland Heeler. This gifted dog is also confidante and best friend to Delia, who hasn’t had a chance to make many friends her own age due to her rigorous schedule and being tutored at home. Everyone else seems to have a plan for Delia, not caring how she feels about it. Not surprisingly, all those toxic ambitions finally come to a head on the eve of Delia’s biggest gig yet when a terrible tragedy befalls her and Caity, causing the collapse of everything the Cross family had come to take for granted and leaving their future in jeopardy.

The Secret Life of Souls gave me all the feels—and they weren’t necessarily all good ones either. Believe it or not though, that’s sometimes a positive thing. After all, I would take a story that gives me raw, painful or visceral emotions over one that leaves me cold any day, and say what you want about this book, but it definitely evoked some powerful reactions. Case in point, I wasn’t even halfway through this novel when I became almost overcome by this blinding urge to go berserker mode on nearly everyone in it. In case you ever need a reminder on how much people can suck sometimes, just look to Pat and Bart Cross. I’d be even angrier at them if they weren’t so pitiful, these two clueless, selfish parents who are clearly stuck in the past. Bart is immature and irresponsible, driven by instant gratification and delusions of being a bold “risk-taker”. Pat is even worse, encompassing all the most reprehensible stereotypes of the aggressive, domineering stage mother. Meanwhile, poor Robbie is relegated to the sidelines, an already introverted child further marginalized by his oblivious, materialistic parents.

So many times while reading this book, I just wanted to yell and scream and hit something, but thankfully in the middle of all this darkness there were also many points of light. The story is told through half a dozen or so POVs, switching frequently between them so that we could get into everybody’s heads—including the dog’s. Caity and Delia’s sections were the best—and not just because they were two of only a handful of characters I didn’t want to punch repeatedly in the face. From their POVs, I could sense the pure and uncomplicated love between a girl and her dog. The two of them have a special bond, Caity loving Delia the only way a dog would, without demanding anything in return.

For that alone, I would probably recommend this book to dog lovers, with the caveat that some parts can be very difficult, very disturbing to read. This is a tragic story that’s heartbreaking at the best of times, and yet there is a beautiful, mesmerizing quality to it too, perhaps even a beacon of hope once you look past all the human evilness. In fact, I wouldn’t have minded a bit more elucidation on this point, since everything seems to go to hell in the last twenty pages, with the intended goal of the epilogue coming off as scant comfort after watching everything spiral out of control like that.

All told, The Secret Life of Souls was an eye-opening read—highly emotional and gut-wrenching, even maddening in places, but that just goes to show how deeply, effectively Ketchum and McKee have managed to draw me into their story. This was a book I simply couldn’t put down.
November 7, 2016
This book was beautiful and haunting, yet nasty and disturbing all at the same time. While I loved the writing and the immediate connection I felt with Delia and Caity, I am once again faced with the fact that some of the most horrific "creatures" in horror tales are humans themselves. The story centers around Delia Cross, a child actor, her twin brother Robbie, and her parents Patricia and Bart. Delia has grown up in front of the camera and early on, the reader is quite aware that the family is surviving and making a living off of Delia's talent. Meanwhile, Delia is missing her childhood and is wise beyond her years. Robbie, Delia's twin brother, often feels left out of the family dynamic and he is at the root of a trick which goes horribly wrong and leaves Delia injured and the family struggling now that their "cash cow" can no longer work as she once did. And I mustn't forget Caity! Caity is a 3 year old Queensland Heeler. She is loyal and brave and tolerant. She loves her life, but more importantly, she loves Delia. Originally bought to be Caity and Robbie's first pet, the bond she forms with Caity is immeasurable and by the end of the novel, the reader fully comprehends that the two of them are connected souls. I also felt so badly for Robbie. He is a forgotten child in this dysfunctional family and is probably already smarter than his mother and father put together. The way he acts in the beginning is not out of cruelty, simply out of confusion and I found it extremely easy to forgive him as the book continued.

As I eluded, this book is downright nasty at times. I absolutely could not stand Patricia and Bart. Patricia is clearly trying to be a "stage mom" and fulfill some desire she had to be a famous actor which obviously failed. Bart loves expensive toys and at the best of times, is totally clueless about what goes on in his household. Being a dog lover, there were parts of this book which were hard for me to stomach. However, I don't think the author's should have changed a thing because everything that happens is integral to the story and makes the end that much more satisfying.

It's hard to talk about this book and not give anything away. I didn't know a whole lot about the plot when I started reading and I think it's almost better to go into it that way. If you are a dog lover, you simply mist rush out to the nearest store and grab a copy when it is released November 8th. I always believed that dogs were 4-legged miracles and Caity definitely fits that description.

I received a beautiful copy of "The Secret Life of Souls" from Pegasus in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Angel Gelique.
Author 19 books409 followers
May 6, 2018
What a beautiful story.

"We are here. We together. We are not alone."

Eleven-year-old Delia Cross is a talented, budding young actress. She lives with her twin brother, Robbie, who is largely neglected, her father, Bart, whose main priority is acquiring expensive man-toys and her mother, Pat, a selfish, greedy, uncaring, poor excuse for a parent who's living vicariously through her daughter. Delia also lives with her cherished and much beloved four-legged companion, Caity.

To say that the family is dysfunctional would be an understatement. Delia seems to be the only mature, responsible one (aside from loyal, smart and amazing Caity). As the sole provider for the family, Delia's income is critical. The family members are put to the test after a freakish accident disrupts their lives, and true colors begin to show.

“That’s pretty f*cking cruel, Pat.”
“Life’s cruel, Bart, or haven’t you been paying attention?"

Pat, Pat, Pat.... What a loathsome mother. She ranks right on up there with Susan Smith and Casey Anthony, in my opinion. I absolutely hated her. You will, too, if you give this book a try--I guarantee it.

Exceptionally well-written, this book pulls you in and gives you a personal glimpse of the Cross family dynamics and the incredibly unique bond between Delia and Caity. The characters are so well-developed and the pacing is perfect.

This is a fantastic psychological story, highlighted with subtle supernatural and metaphysical elements that make it bittersweet and simply unforgettable.
Profile Image for Jen.
620 reviews267 followers
January 18, 2017
The Secret Life of Souls is one of the books I've been wanting to go back and give a proper review. It was released during my complete internet hiatus (November was an ugly month), but I've also had a hard time writing a review for it. It's a pretty short book, and all the things I love about it are tied to events in the story that I don't want to give away. I will just have to gush about it on the whole.

First of all, this is obviously a dog book. When I heard Jack Ketchum wrote a book about a gifted dog, well, it's harder to want a book more than I wanted The Secret Life of Souls. There are not enough genre dogs in my life.

Even with my expectations set so high, I loved The Secret Life of Souls.

As an adult, I avoid a lot of dog books. You won't catch me going near books like Marley and Me or The Art of Racing in the Rain. My chest hurts just thinking about what may be inside of those pages. After being a die hard Dean Koontz fan, though, I long for dogs like The Secret Life of Souls' Caity. I knew I would be in great hands with Jack Ketchum. He did write Red after all - an entire book avenging the death of a dog.

I'm not trying to lull you into a false sense of security. The Secret Life of Souls is a gut wrenching read. It's a psychological thriller, and it will certainly make you uneasy, but it's a great book. And a great dog. Have I mentioned how much I love Caity?

I posted The Secret Life of Souls as one of my favorite books of 2016, but it may very well be my favorite book of last year.
Profile Image for Morris.
964 reviews164 followers
December 27, 2016
“The Secret Life of Souls” is categorized as horror, but I don’t think that is quite accurate. Terrifying, yes, but not in the way the term horror would make you believe.

If you’re a dog lover, and enjoy reading books that can be tense and uncomfortable, this is the book for you. The characters are engaging, the plot is steady, and the emotional resonance is strong. My only complaint is that I wish the various points of view had a smoother transition.

Don’t hesitate to pick “The Secret Life of Souls” if you like animals or intense storytelling. I highly recommend it.

This unbiased review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.
Profile Image for Leah.
696 reviews77 followers
January 26, 2018
What an incredible story. Seriously, I'm going to suggest you read up on the synopsis, but this story follows the Cross family, in all their fucked up glory. Well, it's mostly the parents that are messed up, and these kids and this dog deserved so much better.

Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee have created something really special here. The story, not only incredibly well written, doesn't sacrifice anything to make a certain part of this book better. The characters are so complete and dynamic, they felt so real. It's part of what makes this story so horrific/terrifying at times. The premise is raw and real and I believed everything I was reading.

This story could be someone's actual life, and, that's when I know a story is really and truly fantastic. When there are elements that are so real that they come off the page as their own spectral version of the characters and life they're portraying and it guts me.

That's what this story did. It ripped my heart right apart and put it back together, adding in some of these characters, who I know will stay with me for a very long time. From pace and plot, characters and dialogue, this story had it all in spades.

I regret that this is my first Jack Ketchum, and that I didn't have a chance to discover him while he was alive, but I know this isn't the last time I'll be in his world and with his words. But I know my heart will probably break all over when I have no more stories of his to read.
Profile Image for Brina.
1,960 reviews118 followers
April 23, 2017
Obwohl ich bereits einige Bücher von Jack Ketchum im Regal stehen habe, ist "SCAR" tatsächlich erst das zweite Buch, das ich von ihm lese. Da an "SCAR" auch gleichzeitig der Regisseur Lucky McKee an dem Werk mitgeschrieben hat, war ich umso gespannter. Zum Glück wurde ich hierbei nicht enttäuscht, denn die beiden Autoren haben eine spannende Geschichte rund um die Familie Cross geschrieben.

Was jedoch zuerst einmal bemängelt werden muss, ist das Genre, denn obwohl das Buch als Horror angekündigt wird, geht es vielmehr in Richtung Psychothriller. Wahre Horror-Fans wären von "SCAR" somit wohl eher enttäuscht. Dies bedeutet allerdings nicht, dass die Geschichte schlecht ist, denn diese liest sich nicht nur sehr flüssig, sondern auch sehr spannend, sodass ich das Buch nur selten aus den Händen legen konnte.

Erzählt wird hier die Geschichte der Familie Cross. Während die elfjährige Delia bereits große Karriere macht und ein gefeierter Werbestar ist, wird ihr Zwillingsbruder Robbie immer neidischer und unglücklicher. Ihr Vater hängt immer mehr an der Flasche und ihre Mutter Pat ist geradezu krankhaft ehrgeizig, sodass es in der Familie alles andere als harmonisch abläuft. Obwohl Delia mit ihrer Karriere alles andere als glücklich ist, erkennt ihre Mutter dies nur selten und treibt ihre Tochter immer wieder an, was die Familie jedoch noch weiter zerstört.

Als dann auch noch ein folgenschwerer Unfall geschieht und Delia diverse Gesichtsverletzungen erleidet, lässt ihre Mutter immer noch nicht von ihr ab, sondern möchte auch mit diesem Schicksal genügend Geld herausschlagen. Was sie jedoch nicht ahnt, ist die Tatsache, dass Delia immer mehr aus ihrer Scheinwelt erwacht und sich beginnt zu wehren...

"SCAR" konnte mich schockieren, aber auch gleichzeitig zum Nachdenken anregen. Ketchum und McKee haben hier perfekt aufgezeigt, wie weit einige Menschen gehen, um Erfolge feiern und genug Geld verdienen zu können. Während Delia für ihre elf Jahre sehr reif wirkt, wirkt ihre Mutter Pat dagegen trotz ihres krankhaften Ehrgeizes manchmal noch fast wie ein trotziges Kind, das unbedingt ihren Willen durchsetzen möchte. Dadurch hat jeder in der Familie in irgendeiner Form sein Päckchen zu tragen, sodass man hier genauestens kennen lernt, wie weit manche Menschen doch gehen können und wie schnell eine Familie zerbrechen kann.

Das Cover ist gelungen, passt hervorragend zum Titel und hat mich direkt angesprochen. Gleiches gilt auch für die Kurzbeschreibung, die mich direkt begeistern konnte, sodass ich dem Buch sehr gerne eine Chance gegeben habe.

Kurz gesagt: "SCAR" ist eine spannende und erschreckende Geschichte, die erzählt, wie weit Menschen für die Karriere gehen können und mit interessanten und vielseitigen Figuren und einem packenden Schreibstil überzeugen kann. Ich bin begeistert und kann das Buch somit nur empfehlen.
Profile Image for The Behrg.
Author 14 books147 followers
July 2, 2017
"The Secret Life of Souls" is a cleverly spun tragedy piece, and your heart will be breaking by the end of it. A window into a functioning dysfunctional family and the small decisions that lead to unimaginable consequences.

The characterizations were strong and believable and, having grown up as a "child actor", I loved the glimpse into the entertainment industry and the quiet implications of what it does to people. The other thing I loved about this was that there was no real villain, only wounded individuals making poor decisions and then doing what they must to cover them.

Which, of course, only leads to more poor decisions.

Stylistically, I'm not a huge fan of using an animal's POV as third or first person narrator. It's a choice that, for whatever reason, just drives me out of the story and I always feel the author writing rather than the persona of the intended animal. I got worried at first that much of the story would be told this way but, thankfully, it was used sparingly.

Beyond that, this was a sharp story simply but effectively told. Well worth checking out.
Profile Image for Tammy.
868 reviews144 followers
November 13, 2016

The nitty-gritty: A strange, sometimes violent and unexpectedly emotional thriller about a family unable to cope with tragedy.

I have to admit the blurb on the dust jacket of this book initially grabbed my attention because a) it’s by Stephen King and b) he mentions one of my favorite books EVER—The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. I also have to admit I’ve never read a Jack Ketchum book before, and even though I own one of his most well-known novels, Off Season, I’ve never read it (frankly, I’m a little scared. I hear it’s very hard-core.) So I was anxious to see if the story lived up to the blurb, and I’m happy to say that it did, but not in the ways I was expecting. From the cover, one expects this to be a contemporary, feel-good story about a girl and her dog. But don’t let that cover fool you. The Secret Life of Souls was unexpectedly dark and violent. It’s a drama about a happy-on-the-outside family who is slowly imploding, and the slow slide from happiness to misery is inevitable and there is nothing you can do to stop it.

Delia Cross is a child actor, and at eleven years old, she’s on the brink of real stardom. She lives with her mother Pat, father Bart and twin brother Robbie, but her most beloved friend in the world is Caity, her two-year-old Queensland Heeler. Delia’s days are filled with tutors, auditions and dance lessons, but when she’s not working hard to keep her family living in style, Delia spends her free time with Caity. Pat pours all of her own unrealized dreams of being an actress into her daughter’s budding career, and Bart is quite happy to spend Delia’s income on big screen TVs and shiny new cars.

But on the very day the family is told that Delia has just scored a leading role on a TV sitcom, a terrible accident leaves Delia and Caity in mortal danger. As the family tries to recover from the tragedy, both emotionally and financially, it becomes clear how fragile each family member has become. And even though new opportunities present themselves to the shell-shocked Cross family, it’s only a matter of time before someone cracks under the strain.

Wow, this book. It completely caught me by surprise. It starts out with no real hint of what’s to come, a story about a girl who is more or less being pushed into an acting career that she may or may not want, pushed by parents who have grown used to living off their cash cow actress daughter and have no intention of giving up that lifestyle. Brother Robbie is an introvert who stays in his room most of the time, playing video games. He’s been overshadowed by his sister his entire life, but he’s pretty good-natured about the whole thing. And the glue that holds the family together is a very special dog named Caity, who has bonded with Delia as a puppy and now refuses to let her out of her sight. The story is told from multiple points of view, including that of Caity, and so the reader gets a peek into the mind of a dog, what’s going through her head, the smells and sounds that occupy her thoughts, even how she feels about each of her “pack” members. This POV is important later in the story after the accident, when Caity’s bond with Delia becomes stronger than ever.

So the story starts on this upbeat, positive note, where we get to meet the Cross family, who seem more or less normal. But then. Things take a very dark turn, and an accident occurs that demolishes Delia’s acting career, and the family begins a downward spiral that ends in shocking violence. I won’t spoil the story for you by giving away any more details than that, but let’s just say that even though I could sense that events were going to take a turn for the worse, I did not expect things to go bad as quickly as they did. We have hints that Pat and Bart aren’t your normal, supportive and nurturing parents—they are both teetering on the brink of alcoholism, for one thing—but after the accident, their true personalities emerge, especially Pat’s. The authors could have made this a much longer story, but I appreciate the fact that it’s just long enough—short, sharp and surprisingly brutal, with characters who aren’t easily pigeonholed as being “good” or “bad.”

The only negative for me was some over-the-top action in the last quarter of the book, which some readers may feel is too much. I also had some issues with the fact that Delia’s parents are spending all her money. I know that children are usually legally protected from this sort of thing, but I guess for the sake of the story the authors have given us a family who has been able to take those clauses out of Delia’s contracts. The fact that they are taking advantage of her talent just makes them all the more horrible to me.

And because I’m a dog person, I especially loved the moments we got to spend in Caity’s head. Caity is fiercely loyal and protective, and while those qualities make her a wonderful pet and family member, like all dogs she has a wild streak when it comes to protecting those she loves (and I have to mention that certain parts of the story reminded me of Stephen King’s Cujo). A mild trigger warning for animal lovers: yes, there are some scenes that will make you cringe, but trust me when I say there is light at the end of the tunnel. There are also a few truly magical moments between Caity and some fox cubs that nearly brought tears to my eyes. And the ending! The story has an understated speculative element to it, which really comes into play at the end. I was not prepared for that ending, or the emotions I felt while reading it.

Ketchum and McKee have penned an entertaining and emotional story that kept me on the edge of my seat, and in the end, made me think about the power of love and the wonderful—and sometimes mystical—connection between humans and animals.

Big thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy. This review originally appeared on Books, Bones & Buffy

Profile Image for Tracy Robinson.
491 reviews151 followers
May 5, 2019
Amazing. This is the third book I’ve read by Ketchum, this time with the inclusion of Lucky McKee whom I haven’t read before.

I loved this. A story about the power of the soul and the bond between a dog and her human is juxtaposed with two of the most despicable parents I’ve ever read about. I hated them. HATED THEM. Delia and Caity, though? They will remain in my heart for quite some time to come. This is an effortless read and an emotional one.

Haven’t read Ketchum before? Been leery of reading more after perhaps reading TGND? Give this one a shot. Trust me.
Profile Image for Lukasz.
1,387 reviews223 followers
July 15, 2023
The Secret Life of Souls is my first foray into Jack Ketchum’s books, and it certainly won’t be my last. It’s about a dysfunctional family, fame, money, accidents, and a little girl and her dog. It’s also about the need for empathy and tenderness. And lost souls.

Eleven-year-old Delia Cross is a talented young star on the rise, and she’s on the verge of a big break with a network sitcom. Her parents, Pat and Bart, enjoy her success and profit from it. Delia and her twin brother feel that their parents’ ambitions are more self-serving than supportive. Delia is deeply alone in her own world, save for her dog. But things get even bleaker - an unexpected accident breaks the family life and unveils the true face of everyone.

First things first, Ketchum’s writing style is captivating and minimalist. It gives a vivid picture of a dysfunctional family and the preternatural bond between a little girl and her dog. It also hits you in the feels when you expect it the least. Now, some of you may think that it’s a cozy or sentimental read. It isn’t and you should be prepared for something entirely different and memorable.

Ketchum delves into the darker corners of the human spirit, exposing the raw and sometimes painful truths people often try to ignore. It slowly unveils the monstrous nature of someone every child should rely on. Trust me when I say this book will leave a lasting impression on you.

A few words about Caity - she’s a good dog. Heck, she’s an extraordinary dog whose role develops from protector to savior, and ultimately, from avenger to survivor. She’s a selfless soul navigating a world consumed by self-interest and an amazing companion.

I won’t give the book a full five stars because the beginning feels meandering and quite boring. But if you wait a bit, you’ll understand it sets the stage for brutal twists and turns, and a hint of preternatural. The Secret Life of Souls explores bleak topics: toxic parent-child relationships, child stardom, and people’s hunger for media. It’s also about a girl who is deeply alone in her own world, save for her dog.

The Secret Life of Souls is a deeply affecting novel. It takes a while to get going, but once it gets there, it’s unputdownable.
Profile Image for Laura.
352 reviews63 followers
May 11, 2017
Jack Ketchum gehört zu meinen liebsten Autoren und das schon über viele Jahre hinweg. Ich liebe seinen schockierenden Schreibstil und finde seine Geschichten immer sehr interessant und flüssig zu lesen. 'SCAR' durfte also auch in meinem Bücherregal nicht fehlen.

Das Cover erregt sofort Aufmerksamkeit und der Klappentext macht extrem neugierig. Wir begleiten in der Geschichte Delia, ein junges Mädchen, das gerade dabei ist ihren schauspielerischen Durchbruch zu erleben. Gleich zu Beginn kann man hinter die heile Familienwelt blicken und feststellen, dass hier gar nichts so rosig ist, wie es nach außen scheint. Wärme und Nähe sucht Delia bei ihrer Hündin Caity, die beiden sind unzertrennlich. Als dann der besagte Unfall geschiet, beginnt die eigentliche Wendung der Geschichte.

Zunächst einmal würde ich gerne anmerken, dass das Buch zwar als 'Roman' deklariert ist, aber dennoch von Heyne Hardcore verlegt wurde. Wer den Verlag kennt, der weiß, dass es hier normalerweise sehr blutig und radikal zugeht, da hier schonungslos über rohe Gewalt geschrieben wird. Bei 'SCAR' fehlt mir das ein bisschen, da lediglich ganz zum Schluss der 'Hardcore-Teil' losgeht. Trotzdem finde ich es für die Story recht passend. Sie beginnt langsam und gipfelt eben in einem Showdown, der auf jeden Fall Hardcore genannt werden darf. Zarte Seelchen sollte nicht unbedingt zu diesem Buch greifen.

Die Geschichte wird uns aus verschiedenen Perspektiven erzählt, wir begleiten alle Familienmitglieder, wenn auch in verschiedenem Ausmaß. Sogar die Familienhündin Caity kommt quasi zu Wort, diese Abschnitte fand ich allerdings nicht immer notwendig. Jede der Figuren wird so etwas näher beleuchtet und man erfährt, dass anscheinend jeder mit seinen eigenen Problemen zu kämpfen hat, was jedoch gewisse Personen nicht sympathischer macht. Der Schreibstil von Jack Ketchum ist für mich sehr flüssig lesbar, da die Sprache recht einfach gehalten ist.

Für mich ist 'SCAR' nicht unbedingt das, was ich von Ketchum gewohnt bin, aber dennoch konnte das Buch bei mir punkten. Wer Geschichten über heile Welten mit tiefen Abgründen mag, vor Gewaltszenen nicht zurückschreckt, der sollte sich dieses Buch unbedingt mal angucken.

Profile Image for Addy.
261 reviews56 followers
October 2, 2018
This book ended up being quite good despite my most impatient comments. I didn’t enjoy the family pursuits for fame, but the family dynamics were truly interesting if not downright diabolical at times. The ending was my favorite!! I’m not going to divulge too much as you’ve really just have to experience it on your own.
Profile Image for Alexis Crawford.
8 reviews2 followers
July 15, 2016
I read this book in under 8 hours. If that doesn't tell you how addicting it is, I don't know what will. This family-centered drama delves into the relationships we have with ourselves and others as well as how far we as humans are willing to go to protect ourselves. The real "villain" will shock you...the redeemable character will prick that cold heart you're left with in the end. And the dog? Can I adopt her, please?Overall, a fascinating and incredibly insightful look at one family's experiences with incredible pain, deceit, and love.

Edit: I just want to add that Delia and Pearl are two of my favorite characters I've ever encountered in a book. Both strong and capable women (in their own ways!) who don't let anyone drag them around. Girl power!

Many thanks to Netgalley and Pegasus Books for this ARC in return for this original and honest review.
Profile Image for Chad.
Author 85 books669 followers
September 19, 2018
I'm glad I knew nothing of the book going in. It does take a little time to kick in but once it did I had a hard time putting it down. Essentially, this is Cujo, but the dog owners are the ones with rabies. Disgusting, greedy, superficial, materialistic rabies. Good on you, Caity!
Profile Image for Σωτήρης Καραγιάννης.
Author 2 books36 followers
August 9, 2018
Στο The Secret Life of Souls, παρακολουθούμε μία σύγχρονη αμερικανική οικογένεια που καταχράζεται το ταλέντο της μικρή Delia. H Delia είναι μία εντεκάχρονη κοπελίτσα που γνωρίζει μπαλέτο, παίρνει μέρος σε διαφημιστικά σποτ και πλέον θεωρείται ανερχόμενο αστέρι του cinema. Γύρω να την τυφλώνουν φώτα, κάμερες, μάνατζερς και λεφτά και αυτή να βρίσκεται στη μέση και να αναρωτιέται, εάν τελικά αυτό είναι που θέλει αυτή ή μήπως είναι αυτό που θέλουν οι γονείς της "για το καλό της". Μέσα σε όλη αυτή την κατάσταση, η μόνη διέξοδος της Delia από την καθημερινότητα είναι η σκυλίτσα της, η Caity, ένα πανέξυπνο Queensland Heeler. Η αψεγάδιαστη εικόνα της οικογένειας σιγά σιγά αρχίζει και ραγίζει όταν η Caity παθαίνει ένα τρομερό ατύχημα, αλλάζοντας τη ζωή όλων ριζικά.

Η Αμερική της Oprah, των reality shows, των real life best sellers, των toddlers and tiaras...

Αυτό το μαγικό πλάσμα είναι η Caity:

Από τις πρώτες σελίδες κιόλας, ήρθε κατευθείαν στο μυαλό μου η ταινία του David Cronenberg, Maps to the Starts. Όσο προχωρούσα με την ανάγνωση, βρήκα περισσότερες ομοιότητες και στα γεγονότα και στους χαρακτήρες. Η ταινία του Cronenberg είναι μία πολύ καλή παρουσίαση της ζωής των "μικρών" ηθοποιών και των γονιών που προσπαθούν να επωφεληθούν, κάνοντας το όνειρό τους πραγματικότητα - να βρεθούν έστω και για λίγα λεπτά κάτω από το φακό των φλας. Αυτό ακριβώς πραγματεύεται και το βιβλίο του Κέτσαμ και το κάνει πολύ καλά. Τα γεγονότα που αναφέρονται είναι σωστά βαλμένα για να γίνει αντιληπτή η πορεία ενός νεαρού ηθοποιού που καθορίζεται πάντα από τους γονείς-μάνατζερς. Πρώτα έρχεται η καταξίωση και η φήμη - μετά από ένα δυστύχημα έρχεται η ανθρωποφαγία της σόουμπιζ και η προσπάθεια να γίνει το μαρτύριο, θέαμα.

Το βιβλίο είναι γραμμένο με δύο διαφορετικά στυλ. Υπάρχουν τα πρόσωπα που μιλάνε μεταξύ τους και υπάρχει η Caity, το μικρό σκυλί που παρατηρεί την οικογένεια και προστατεύει την Delia. Ουσιαστικά, το βιβλίο είναι βασισμένο σε αυτή τη φιλία που πραγματικά είναι πανέμορφα γραμμένη. Ό,τι βλέπει, ό,τι ακούει ή ό,τι αισθάνεται η Caity, είναι γραμμένα σε πρώτο πρόσωπο λες και η σκυλίτσα είναι άνθρωπος. Η ειρωνεία βέβαια είναι κραυγαλέα: η Caity είναι πιο άνθρωπος από όλους τους χαρακτήρες στο βιβλίο...

Μέσα από αυτή τη τρυφερή φιλία φαίνονται ξεκάθαρα η αγάπη, η αλληλεγγύη, η αποδοχή του διαφορετικού και η προστασία όσων αγαπάς, δίχως κανένα αντάλλαγμα και κανέναν όρο. Μερικές σκηνές είναι αρκετά συγκινητικές και εάν έχετε/είχατε σκύλο, θα τις νιώσετε πιο έντονα.

Δυστυχώς, το The Secret Life of Souls είναι η τελευταία νουβέλα που έγραψε ο Κέτσαμ πριν πεθάνει, μαζί με τη βοήθεια του φίλου του και συνεργάτη Lucky McKee (σκηνοθέτη του Red, The Woman). Σαν βιβλίο θα το χαρακτήριζα δράμα. Δεν έχει κάποιο σημείο που μου προκάλεσε αγωνία ή σασπένς. Είναι η μελέτη μίας οικογένειας που πατάει επί πτωμάτων για να θρέψει τη ματαιοδοξία της, καταστρέφοντας οτιδήποτε, ακόμα και τα παιδιά τους και τον ίδιο τους τον εαυτό.

Το τέλος βέβαια το βρήκα λίγο υπερβολικό και μου φάνηκε παράταιρο για τέτοιο βιβλίο, επειδή η βία είναι αρκετά περιγραφική και έτσι χάνεται η "μαγεία". Όπως και να έχει, είναι μία ενδιαφέρουσα νουβέλα με δύο γλυκύτατους χαρακτήρες, τη Delia και τη Caity. Προτείνω να τσεκάρετε πρώτα την ταινία του Cronenberg και μετά να ασχοληθείτε με αυτή τη νουβέλα. Ίσως σας φανεί υπερβολικό family drama.
Profile Image for Renee Godding.
642 reviews633 followers
February 14, 2023
1/5 stars: actually hated it…

This one really wasn’t for me. I reserve my one star ratings for books I actively disliked reading or find to have harmful content. This falls in the former category.
A few reasons why I didn’t enjoy my time:

1. There are actual grammatical errors in the finished copy. Not many, but even one is too many when it comes to a traditionally published and edited book.
2. The story starts off strong, but flies off the rails halfway through. In many ways it feels something Stephen King could’ve written, both with the bizarre supernatural concept that I won’t spoil, the brand of horror, and the batshit ending.
3. Every single (human) character is an asshole. I know it’s intentional, but I still can only read so much relentless human cruelty and neglect before I’m done.
4. Content warning for child abuse and on page physical abuse and violence against a dog. I’m mentioning this specifically because it’s something I personally find particularly disturbing and don’t want to read about. Not even if it’s intentional, called-out or leads to any sort of “happy ending”

If you love Stephen Kings brand of horror and want something like Cujo-meets-unhinged-child-actress-mum; this might be for you. Unfortunately for me, I actually wish I hadn’t read this.
Profile Image for Scott.
290 reviews5 followers
November 2, 2016
Right at the top, I will say that Jack Ketchum is in my top five of favorite authors. If that makes me too biased to leave my feelings about the novel, feel free to skip it.

I was very excited to read this advance copy, but it took me a while to start it. Ketchum's books are usually emotionally exhausting, and sometimes I don't feel up for it. The Secret Life of Souls is not a fun read, but ultimately a rewarding one.

It is hard to figure out what to say about the book without revealing something. At its core, The Secret Life of Souls is about a girl and her dog and the unraveling family around them. Longtime readers will know of Jack Ketchum's love of animals, and he and Lucky McKee have created a fully formed character in Caity the dog. The plot takes a few heart wrenching turns, and the reason the reader cares is because of the characters that the authors have quickly made us fall in love with.

This novel isn't horror in the traditional sense, but I think horror readers would appreciate it. Beyond that, I don't see why this books shouldn't have a wide audience. Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee's latest collaboration is one of those books that will make you glad you read it, and one that will not be forgotten. Five stars, recommended for everyone.
Profile Image for Reindert Van Zwaal.
151 reviews9 followers
July 9, 2017
Wow, this book is so special, in multiple ways. The writing style is special, as the story is not written from one perspective but hovers a bit between being told by different characters and a story teller. Part of the story is viewed from the dogs perspective, this is done in a terrific way, it doesn't seem strange one single time. The writer is perfectly able to convey the animal's emotion and describes it stunningly striking. Part of the book is a mystery and paranormal aspect, about which little details are let slipped throughout the story, not revealing to much and keeping the reader eager to get to know the whole story. The book also deals with the wrecked society and selfish people misusing their child. It is just not possible to put this book into a single category, it has multiple aspects which makes it very particular.
Profile Image for Daniel Barnett.
Author 14 books233 followers
May 11, 2017
Utterly unlike anything I have ever read. Bold, beautiful, infuriating, and a whole bunch of other adjectives that all add up to: why aren't more people talking about this book? Maybe because Jack Ketchum's name and reputation jar with the cover, which, frankly, looks a little Lifetime. I get the feeling the marketing team overcompensated on the pretty stuff to make people understand this isn't horror . . . but it is. The kind of horror that doesn't conform to any conventions, that doesn't require cannibals or torture to be horrifying. Souls is an examination of the quiet, insidious abuse that can occur with a family, and yes, it is also the story of a dog and friendship. A damn good one.
Profile Image for Bekka.
1,308 reviews13 followers
July 20, 2016
Thanks to Netgalley and Pegasus Books for early access to this title.

Wow! this is a bit of a hurricane of a book! Parts of it were a little over the top, but I really liked the characterizations (even the rotten people are great to read) and I LOVED the dog. Its a bit hard to place in a genre, but maybe magical realism? I very much liked the relationship of Delia with Caity, and thought the ending was quite satisfying. Not a read for everyone, but a fast-paced, can't-put-down kind of book
Displaying 1 - 30 of 149 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.