The Poor and the Haunted is a psychological drama that is enthralling, full of suspense and possesses a supernatural dimension that may lead to horrors as the story unfolds.
Jimmy Lansford is the protagonist of the story which is told over two time periods; as a young boy of fifteen, in 1997, and as a married man and parent, twenty-two years later. As a young boy both Jimmy and his sister, Kelly, lived a very grim and poverty-stricken existence at the hands of abusive and drug-addicted parents. His father committed suicide in a very unusual manner, which always struck Jimmy as bizarre and led him to believe he may have been possessed. His mother became a prostitute to fund her drug habit and both Jimmy and Kelly formed an inseparable bond that only a draconian upbringing could produce. Jimmy eventually escapes to university with the intention of bringing Kelly with him once he graduates.
As a husband to Jill and parent to Jonathan and Jessica he lives a happy family life that he has worked extremely hard for. At the point the story begins, Jimmy starts to feel an invisible presence and witnesses on several occasions a ghostly shape that can’t be explained. The great opening line of the novel lays the atmosphere that suggests a cloaked supernatural context.
“ ‘Why,’ Jessica asked, ‘do hauntings only happen to poor people?’ ”
The comparison between the two periods of Jimmy’s life is stark in terms of well-being but the unbreakable bond with his sister and later his loving wife, have provided an anchor for Jimmy. The narrative is beautifully written to draw the contrast and similarities. What he wants to keep out are the memories or demons that remind him of his previous life and the toll they took on someone he loved so very deeply.
The gradual descent into mental turmoil as an adult is cleverly written, especially as a paranormal menace looms. The suspense keeps the two obvious threads finally balanced – is the unnatural presence causing the mental anguish or is a psychological breakdown manifesting itself as something supernatural. The story is touching as we observe how family bonds can be so supportive and heartbreaking at the loss of someone so vulnerable yet deserving of happiness.
Dustin McKissen’s book is easy to delve into and the captivating storyline keeps the flow going at a great pace. I would recommend reading this book and I’d like to thank Black Rose Writing and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC version in return for an honest review.