Break The Bodies, Haunt The Bones
Hardcover | Kindle
By Micah Dean Hicks
Publisher: John Joseph Adams | HMH Books
Release Date: February 5, 2019
The dying factory town of Swine Hill is haunted; ghosts inhabit the majority of the town’s citizens. Some ghosts desire violence; some simply want to be loved. For Jane and her brother Henry, their family has been torn apart by the ghosts that have made homes of their bodies. But for the most part, the ghosts have become commonplace. For many, they’re manageable; nothing more than an annoyance – or in some cases – a welcome addition. However, the sudden emergence of a new breed of creature is what has both the people and ghosts of Swine Hill worried.
Wow. I thought the premise of Break The Bodies, Haunt The Bones sounded interesting, but Micah Dean Hicks took my interest and turned it into pure fascination. While I don’t presume to know what the story as a whole is an allegory for (though I do have some ideas), I am positive that at its heart, there is a recurring theme that cannot be overlooked: people don’t just have a desire for certain things, but many times, a need. This truth is ubiquitous within the novel when it comes to the following: characters wanting to finally move on from Swine Hill and trying to make up for one’s mistakes.
In Swine Hill, the ghosts are not discriminatory toward age. The older generations have become resigned to the hauntings and to the idea of never leaving the town, while the younger generations try their hardest to remain positive in a dying and dangerous factory town – holding onto the faintest of hopes that one day they’ll be able to leave Swine Hill and its haunts behind for good. This concept – while supernatural in its execution – represents the all too real mirroring of the desperation of some in our own world to leave their dying or “haunted” towns behind. Fantastical elements aside, Hicks does a superb job at creating a town that feels very much like many run-down, atmospherically oppressive towns in any given state.
But that is not the only aspect of the real world that Hicks touches upon. In Swine Hill, our protagonists, their loved ones, friends, and acquaintances, are all severely flawed. Mistake after mistake is made, people are hurt both emotionally and physically, and it takes them some time to fully grasp their faults; however, once the characters begin to gain some awareness of their shortcomings, they tend to find themselves swelling with a powerful need for redemption.
Break The Bodies, Haunt The Bones is an excellent novel that deals with real-life problems in a weird, horrific, and surreal setting. If Hicks’ other novels are as deeply introspective and satisfying as this, I’ll be reading his works for a very long time.