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Formats
Paperback Book Details
  • 11/2020
  • 9781098321192 1098321197
  • 138 pages
  • $12.99
Children of Violence
The book is about kids that grow up around violent adults and how that shapes their lives. There’s Gracie, Robbie, Cole, and Reeves. Gracie’s life in the Suburbs is perfect from the outside, but her dad is an abusive drunk that moonlights as a hitman for the mafia. Robbie lives in a project in the inner city, his mother is a prostitute, his mother’s boyfriend is a drug dealing pimp. Robbie is set on getting enough cash to get him and his little brother out of the hood, and where he gets that money doesn’t matter. Reeves grows up in a radical cult that believes the end times is here. He trains as a child soldier so he and the other Christians can survive until the return of Christ. Cole lives in a trailer in the country. His neglectful alcoholic father suffers from PTSD, hoping for one day to fight again. All of these stories connect, and the outcomes are unexpected and shocking.
Reviews
Brutal yet somehow compulsively readable, Gherardi’s brisk debut certainly does not pull its punches. Each of the connected short stories in this hybrid of novel and collection either directly or indirectly recounts the turbulent lives of four main characters: Gracie, whose dad is a rather prominent mobster; Reeves, whose parents are religious to the point of extremism, calling television “the devil box”; Cole, whose father is veteran and stuck in the glory days; and Robbie, whose mother is an addict and whose mother’s boyfriend is a pimp. Taken together, this very adult collection of vignettes is not for the faint of heart, exploring how the worst of humanity lives—and, more importantly, how their children do, too.

Troubling topics and triggering language abound in this tight, potent collection, as do strong opening lines and cliffhangers: “So at a garage sale awhile back Paw Paw and I got a cast iron skillet for two bucks,” one chapter starts, exemplifying a prose style that remains conversational no matter how heavy the subject matter. Gherardi’s characters often talk about each other but only rarely dive into their own emotions as they endure the book’s relentless succession of traumatic events. At times, though, that tendency and (for the most part) a lack of connection between those events and how each of the protagonists ultimately ends up serves to obscure greater themes beyond shock and disgust.

However, that’s not true for all of Gherardi’s children of violence. Robbie’s arc is terribly affecting as it's clear how his situation affects his treatment of his little brother, his own life choices, and, ultimately, his end, as the conclusion to his story doubles as the book’s smart and heartbreaking final chapter. Readers will find themselves having to fill in some emotional and thematic gaps in this series of proudly sordid narratives, but spotting the threads that connect these lives does prove satisfying.

Takeaway: Fans of short, gritty stories that are unafraid to touch on almost every heavy subject will want to brave this succinct collection.

Great for fans of: Nelson Algren, Kate Walbert’s His Favorites.

Production grades
Cover: B
Design and typography: B
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: B+

Formats
Paperback Book Details
  • 11/2020
  • 9781098321192 1098321197
  • 138 pages
  • $12.99

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