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A Choir of Ill Children

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  1,810 ratings  ·  204 reviews
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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 mother’s disappearance and his fathe
Paperback, 225 pages
Published June 1st 2004 by Bantam (first published 2003)
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Average rating 3.69  · 
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 ·  1,810 ratings  ·  204 reviews

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**review amended to include deborah's thoughts, because even though we gave it the same amount of stars, i did not do a good enough job reviewing.

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

krok zero hated this book.

and i understand his problems with it - when something is compared to faulkner and flannery o'connor, you have certain expectations as a reader, and
Dan Schwent
Nov 26, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016
In the town of Kingdom Come, Thomas cares for his brothers, conjoined triplets, and for the mill, the town's only source of income. Who's kicking all the dogs? What happened to Thomas' family?

A Choir of Ill Children is a modern Southern Gothic tale, a slice in Thomas' bizarre life. To be honest, I'm not precisely sure what this was supposed to be. It reads like a collaboration between Flannery O'Connor and Donald Ray Pollock. There is a bleakness to the tale and a lot of strange shit happens. S
Oct 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 04, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fall-2011

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
Mar 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
Tom Piccirilli has written this novel in nearly a poetic, lyrical style. The gothic setting of the Southern town of Kingdom Come is the perfect backdrop for this tale of madness, evil, conjure women, and secrets galore.

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

Tara Rock
Sep 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Well, I've never read anything quite like this. After the first chapter I asked myself WTF did you just read. (pardon my language). This novel was disturbing, challenging and most engaging. I admired the format as it made it almost impossible to quit reading which I was never inclined to do. I really liked it and will proceed with Mr. Piccirilli. ...more
Anthony Chavez
Jul 15, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
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 oddly 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 thickness
Quentin Wallace
Jan 03, 2015 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
Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
Jun 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I barely know what I've just read. This is Southern Gothic via Pasolini, James Lee Burke on acid. Family secrets, a vast mansion, witches, magicians, freaks, fanatics, a preacher, a private eye, love, sex, murder, kicked dogs, moonlight, moonshine, alligators...what is this phantasmagoria? Powerful, for sure, less plotty, less tethered yet more grounded in what the psychiatrists used to call id than anything in the genre. If it is of any genre. ...more
Garrett Cook
Jul 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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.
Aug 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Keith Deininger
Jul 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Paula Hartman
Oct 17, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: never-finished
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. ...more
Feb 15, 2017 rated it liked it
I struggled with this book because I really wasn't in the mood for a puzzle text. Haven't read all of Piccirilli's books yet, but this seems an anomaly because even with his most whacked out characters you have a sense of the journey and can go along for the ride. Here, I sensed a deliberate attempt to write a Barthian text (c.f. The Pleasure of the Text) and also a carnivalesque in the Bahktinian sense. The funny thing is that in in his author's blurb in the back he stated that he was spending ...more
K.Z. Snow
Gotta say, the author's an impressive prose stylist, but I'm already getting the brain jits reading this. There's "bizarre," and then there's "OMFGWTF!" . . . with spoiled cherries on top.

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

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

This has been an odd reading experienc
Jan 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Eerie, but beautiful. I haven't read any fiction in a long time and never anything like this, but I loved it and can't wait to read more from Piccirilli. ...more
Heidi Ward
That was weird. Like Faulkner meets McCarthy on acid weird. ACoIC has been on my TBR list for years, and now that I've gotten around to it I'm not sure what to make of the darned thing.

I was thrilled by the lush imagery in Piccirilli's tale; he excels at evoking the stormy, dangerous nature of the bayou, and of human suffering, too. (Sometimes he mixes them to delicious effect: "Rain claws for me through my windshield, flowing like arterial spray.") Gorgeous phrases jump off the page, as if ill
Feb 04, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Nov 18, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Aug 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Aug 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Like reading about someone's nightmare yet being left as unsettled as if it had been your own. ...more
May 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: horror
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
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
May 25, 2013 rated it liked it
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
William M.
Jun 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Jul 10, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: thriller
Having read and really enjoyed several Tom Piccirilli novels, I looked to see what else others had liked. This one seemed to have the highest ratings, but I thought it was terrible. It was not just that conjoined triplets seem creepy, but the plot meandered dreadfully and the central character was inconsistent Then, TP tried using graphic sex scenes to resuscitate reader's interest. Don't let this novel put you off from trying his books -- just choose another one. ...more
One of the weirdest books I have ever read. I had no idea what was going on most of the time, it felt so disjointed. Also rather unpleasant, but that may be inherent to the southern gothic genre (Flannery O'Connor had me scarred for life when I read her at twenty or thereabouts).

If I had not received this from a very dear friend, I would have put it aside. As it was, the last chapter almost made me knock off the second star for being such an anti-climax.
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Thomas Piccirilli (May 27, 1965 – July 11, 2015) was an American novelist and short story writer.

Piccirilli sold over 150 stories in the mystery, thriller, horror, erotica, and science fiction fields. He was a two-time winner of the International Thriller Writers Award for "Best Paperback Original" (2008, 2010). He was a four-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award. He was also a finalist for the 20

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