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The Changeling

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  8,993 ratings  ·  1,616 reviews
One man’s thrilling journey through an enchanted world to find his wife, who has disappeared after seemingly committing an unforgiveable act of violence, from the award-winning author of the The Devil in Silver and Big Machine.

Apollo Kagwa has had strange dreams that have haunted him since childhood. An antiquarian book dealer with a business called Improbabilia, he is jus
ebook, 662 pages
Published June 13th 2017 by Spiegel & Grau
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3.80  · 
Rating details
 ·  8,993 ratings  ·  1,616 reviews

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4ish stars.

I was hesitant to read this because I didn't love the author's most recently written novella, The Ballad of Black Tom, but after a few key recommendations, I decided to pick it up. And I'm glad I did. I loved the characters and enjoyed LaValle's creepy, atmospheric, magical NYC.

The first quarter of the book or so is really chill. We meet the characters, particularly married couple Apollo and Emma, who are cool and relatable, and who we grow to enjoy spending time with. There's some c
4.5/5 stars!

Apollo Kagwa grew up without a dad and now that he's a brand new father himself, he is determined to be there for every second of his son's life. Every second, that is, until his wife suddenly, crazily, gets it into her head that their baby is not their baby at all, but something else entirely. Apollo thinks she's out of her mind with lack of sleep and overwhelming responsibility, but is she really? If so, who keeps sending her pictures of their baby on her cell phone? Then again,
Dec 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 23, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Apollo Kagwa has abandonment issues. His mother Lillian, Ugandan by birth, has raised him alone since age four, when father Brian West vanished. For years, Apollo has had recurring dreams of a man knocking on the door and pushing his way into the apartment. He envisions being carried through a fog and wakes up screaming. Lillian is forced to leave Apollo alone for hours in order to keep the family afloat. Apollo, a self contained, bookish child is a voracious reader.

Childhood entrepreneurial exp
Oct 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is my second Victor LaValle and after the Ballad of Black Tom having washed through me and left me wanting so much more, I was very, very happy to be reading this.

It has a very different feel in one way, but in another, it's exactly like coming home. Being in the story you always want to be in. What do I mean?

The devil is in the details. It's very homey, feeling like delightful snapshots of family and home, full of the sweet and the bitter and the genuinely odd stuff that always comes alon
Dec 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The difference between understanding what one sees and seeing what one’s understanding permits is central to psychological realism in fiction. For Victor LaValle, this difference can also be explained when our understanding is asked to cross the boundary between the real and the uncanny. His dark fable, The Changeling, is the story of Apollo Kagwa, a book dealer whose storybook romance with librarian Emma Valentine is devastated when Emma disappears after committing an unimaginable crime. His jo ...more
Jun 13, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc, fantasy, horror
I think this book went over my head. I cannot be quite sure but I do think so. I had the overwhelming feeling of just missing something here – and I cannot quite put my finger on what that was. Bear that in mind while I try to figure out my thoughts while writing.

In this book we follow Apollo and his wife both before they meet and after they have had their son. For about a third of the book, there is some menace lurking but mostly the story is whimsical and quite lovely, until suddenly it shifts
Jun 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
THE CHANGELING by Victor LaValle is so damn brilliant. Mash up of complex parental anxieties, life in Trumplandia, and dark fairy tales.
Chris Eder
starts like love actually, then becomes rosemary's baby, then becomes jurassic park.
Lark Benobi
Reading this book felt exactly like turning the crank on one of those souvenir flatten-your-penny machines--you turn it over and over and over and over, with very little resistance, imagining all the time that it's what you wanted to be doing, and it feels like you're making no progress whatsoever, but you keep doing it anyway for what seems like forever and then, clunk, you're done--you just paid 26c and got back a penny that is no longer worth anything at all.
Oct 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Check out my video review!

4.5 stars

Okay. Wow. So. This was my first Victor LaValle book, and I feel like he's going to be on the same level as Neil Gaiman for me. I loved his writing style--DAMN LaValle knows his way around a sentence... Seriously. I think sometimes people conflate great prose with flowery prose, but that's not really the case. LaValle knows when to be flowery, when to be curt, when to be formal, when to throw in a curse word. He's a master, and a delight to read.

As for this boo
This intelligent, intriguing modern day fairy tale starts out in what seems to be a normal world. It begins with the birth of the protagonist, Apollo, a child of mixed race to Lillian Kagwa (a Ugandan immigrant) and Brian West (a white parole officer.) His father had held him as a baby telling him he was Apollo, the God. This becomes a mantra for Apollo later in life. Brian West disappears by the time Apollo is four years old, but Apollo continues to have dreams, or maybe nightmares, about his f ...more
Mar 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oh yes. That's what I'm talking about. This is the sort of book that reignites the passion for the genre. I've read LaValle's Devil in Silver, which I liked a lot, but this dark fairy tale for adults definitely takes the cake. And slaughters it. It starts off like many fairy tales do...nice and normal story of a man who realizes there's more to life than buying and selling books, proceeds to fall in love and start a family. Fatherhood agrees with him, all is dreamily well...until his perfect lif ...more
Oct 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017-read
4.5 stars

An excellent book that deftly melds the monsters of the old world with those of the new. LaValle's voice feels firmly a product of his time and place and it provides a rich multi-dimensional aspect to the characters and their story.

The story itself is contemporary realism that slides into fantasy that slides into horror and circles back again. Real and fantasy horror combine in both subtle and sharp ways to create a violent and at times gory tale. Running throughout is an unavoidable s
Edward Lorn
Jan 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A heartfelt modern-day fairytale

Victor LaValle is one of my new favorite authors. THE DEVIL IN SILVER is my favorite of his books, but this is a close second. I enjoyed reading about a father who'd do anything to save his kid. All too often these stories make the mother the savior while the father is left as the bumbling sidekick, or as is the case a lot of the time, the father is the villain. It was awesome to finally read a story where the dad wasn't worthless.

Some of the dialogue was clunky,
switterbug (Betsey)
I’m compelled to compare LaValle to Stephen King, especially the domestic novels. Like King, Victor LaValle ably mines the struggles of ordinary families, and intertwines extraordinary circumstances, via supernatural horror and gristle. He does this to emphasize bitter realities—a palimpsest of fractured Maurice Sendak fables, with strained domestic life that ironically underscores rather than distracts from everyday family problems. What I like better about LaValle is that he does it without pl ...more
J.K. Grice
With THE CHANGELING, Victor Lavalle has given us a modern day urban fairy tale, complete with witches, Norse legends, and mayhem. But really at its heart, this novel is about families, and how our children are nurtured or neglected. It's about our memories of childhood, and what we believe or choose to believe is real. Sometimes the veil is very thin between the worlds of truth and illusion. There is also a strong current in this story of violation, which manifests itself in the potential loss o ...more
Michael Ferro
3.5 stars. I'm not a fan of fantasy or magical realism books, but LaValle's modern urban fantasy was very well-written and certainly kept me reading until the end. The first half of the book, which was well-grounded in realism, was the most interesting and exciting portion for me, as LaValle truly provided an insightful look into the mind of a modern new parent and the struggles of raising an infant in the social media age. As the story progressed, and the elements of magical realism slipped in, ...more
Mike Bevel
Jan 09, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
there's literally a bad guy who is named Kinder Garten and he's also an internet troll as well as the handler of an actual troll and I just don't understand novels any more
A very strange, very adult fantasy intermixing current social media and technology with ancient Norwegian folklore. A sort of hip hop horror meets Grimm Fairytales. Ostensibly a very twisted tale of fatherhood, marriage and parenting. This was a novel geared towards a younger generation but was distinctively not YA. I think this was very clever writing and it was also suitably creepy. Not my favorite read of the year but to LaValle's credit, I think that has more to do with my generation and lit ...more
Oct 07, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
THE CHANGELING is a fairy tale for the modern day. A real fairy tale, the kind where people die and the words 'happily ever aftet' are never uttered.

It’s horror, urban fantasy, and ‘regular’ fantasy all put together. It portrays the dangers of internet oversharing, trolls, and being a person of color on the streets at night. But the heart of the story is how love will make a parent go to any lengths to save their child.

It isn't flawless, there are a few plot elements that don't make sense a
Sep 07, 2017 rated it it was ok
This is a story about the bad things that happen to parents who spam too much of their kids' lives on Facebook.

I first discovered The Changeling on a list of "Dark fairytale books", a list which included several books I had already read and loved - but unfortunately this one just wasn't my cup of tea.

Started out slowly introducing the characters and their backgrounds and relationships and I should be caring about them, shouldn't I? Yet they felt somehow dispassionate, hollow. I couldn't seem to
La Tonya  Jordan
Jul 31, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to La Tonya by: Go On Girl! Book Club
Shelves: good-read
This book was a surprise and delight for me. I normal do not care to read Sci-Fi, but this was different it was a good read. It begins with a black hippie couple having a baby the natural way at home with a mid-wife. Apollo and Emma Kagwa has baby Brian on the subway in New York because he comes early. All the preparation for the birth actually comes to realization in front of strangers. It was the highlight of their marriage and the beginning of their family. What happens next is unforgettable, ...more
Marianna Neal
This book is the equivalent of going to an amusement park and getting on a carousel, then realizing it's actually bumper cars, but somehow ending up in Haunted Mansion.
Some people will see this as a good thing, others will be frustrated by it. Personally, I ended up really enjoying the novel, especially since it did bring most of the elements together towards the end. Victor LaValle certainly has a lot to say about parenting, the dangers of oversharing online, the stories we repeatedly tell to
Roshani Chokshi
I am still reeling. THANK YOU NIV FOR THIS RECOMMENDATION!!! I was so affected at some passages that I was actually nauseous. Lavelle is a masterful storyteller. For me, this was a horror story filtered through a fairytale. That said, it's hopeful in a way that reminds me of some of my favorite horror stories, like the Babadook. Highly recommend. I would not, however, recommend this story to new parents. Or pregnant readers. O_O
[Name Redacted]
The millennialest Millennial that ever millennially millennialed. LaValle manged to trick the world into buying three rough drafts of three unrelated stories that he couldn't be bothered to finish by pretending they were a single story. But hey, 75% of the way through, the third unrelated story SUDDENLY involves a heretofore-unmentioned supernatural element. Neither deep nor original nor complex, this is a shallow mess which feels more like the product of a first-year Creative Writing major than ...more
Anthony Vacca
Feb 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The first half of this excellent dark fairy tale arrests the reader with its quirky and compassionate characterization, its parade of pleasurable incidents (such as the protagonist as an enterprising young lad turning a profit off of selling magazines to elderly neighbors for reasonable prices; or the same, much older obviously, helping his wife birth their son in a stalled subway car while a troupe of teenage dancers keep away the camera phones of crass spectators), and LaValle's deft hand at p ...more
May 31, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This received a Kirkus star and many good reviews, but for me the attempt at merging the magical realism/fairy-tale atmosphere with modern day technologies and parental anxieties missed the mark. I felt like there were many good ideas here, but possibly too many all thrown in together.
Aug 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Right from the very first sentence—“This fairy tale begins in 1968 during a garbage strike”—Victor LaSalle signals what he intends to do: weave the magical spell of fairy tales with the gritty reality of present day New York.

Indeed, the opening is grounded in that reality with memorable images: the birth of our protagonist Apollo Kagwa’s child on a stalled A train with no midwives in sight, and a particularly horrific scene later on where Apollo is tethered by a bike lock to a hot water pipe. Wh
Don't even know what to say about this book.

It took my breath away and the ending was just fantastic.

I saw that some of my friends on Goodreads were reading this and I already had plans to read this because I loved LaValle's last book "The Ballad of Black Tom". I didn't think that this book would even hit what I loved from the previous book but it did. This book was just the best of the horror genre. I think I heard someone once say the way to best judge a story is if it sounds true. And this b
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Victor LaValle is the author of the short story collection Slapboxing with Jesus, four novels, The Ecstatic, Big Machine, The Devil in Silver, and The Changeling and two novellas, Lucretia and the Kroons and The Ballad of Black Tom. He is also the creator and writer of a comic book Victor LaValle's DESTROYER.

He has been the recipient of numerous awards including a Whiting Writers' Award, a United
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“Unsupervised reading is a blessing for a certain kind of child” 35 likes
“A bad fairy tale has some simple goddamn moral. A great fairy tale tells the truth.” 13 likes
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