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C.S. Fritz: A Fig for All the Devils (Paperback, 2021, Albatross Book Co) 3 stars

An abused, grief-stricken, and impoverished Sonny has all but given up on life. That is, …

Liked what it attempted to do, but don't feel it actually succeeded in doing it well.

2 stars

I feel like this book failed to actually hit the notes it was attempting to hit. It wanted to work through abuse, death, and grief but really felt like it was forcing the wrong characters to learn lessons when they were meant to be the narrative devices through which the protagonist Sonny (and his family) were meant to learn.

Much of the exploration felt incredibly superficial, with Sonny just moving on through processing the abuses he endured. This isn't to say that there's one right way to process and deal with abuse, but there was nothing that actually made Sonny engage with what he experienced. In a good chunk of the novel, it was very much "tell don't show" or "show but gloss over."

Overall, it's an interesting attempt, but I left it feeling very unsatisfied. I was even left frustrated by the ending, which I think should've had consequences for the protagonists and actually engaged in showing them trying to actively fix the issues they had. There wasn't any work involved in building and repairing the relationships in the novel; they just... were.

It's also worth noting that the author forewarns readers that this book is fiction with autobiographical notes, and you could really feel the ways in which he was trying to force readers to sympathise with Sonny (who was clearly his stand-in). And that's not awful, but it also means that Sonny needs to truly grow and develop and process his world, which also allows the audience to kind of follow him in that journey. And this was something that I very much feel they failed at doing.