The Gospel According to Johnny Bender by Dean Lilleyman

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The cover, the title, the blurb: all of this caught my interest so I decided to read this book, which turned out to be an excellent choice!

‘Once upon a time there was a village called Edendale, and some people were good and some people were bad and some people were in-between. Do we know who is what yet? I don’t think we do…’ During the celebrated carnival of 1979, the villagers danced beneath a mirror-ball, as a young girl drifted dead in the river. Who knew the truth of things? And would the truth matter? Now it’s 1999 and Edendale is holding another carnival. An anniversary to commemorate the life-changing events of twenty years before, by pretending it’s 1979…again. One day, two decades apart, the mirror-ball turning in the dark to light a truth. Come…Johnny Bender has things to show you.
(Goodreads)

This was a very weird book. Like very, very weird. That said, it was a very good book! If I gave half stars, this would easily be 4 1/2! It was a little hard to follow along at first but once you get used to the author’s strange style, the story becomes incredibly compelling. There’s a lot of information and different names to sort through so I think I’d probably benefit from a second read to better make sense of the book. It is meant in some way to be deliberately confusing, as we confuse past and present, truth and fiction, so feeling a little lost as you make your way through is totally understandable.

To get the best idea of what you’re in for with this strange read, here’s an excerpt from the first chapter:

I’ll tell you what I know, so maybe you’ll remember. It’s forty-three minutes past seven o’clock. Some might say I’m wrong and right me, tell you me both it’s seventeen minutes to eight. Today, I am eyes not mouth, so I won’t answer back. Eyes tell things that mouth cannot. They see mattress, sleep bag, floorboards, that yellowy light through curtains that tell morning. They tell my fingernails are long, carry dark half-moons that scratch leg. Today, I am ears, hear scratch, see it, feel it. Ears tell things that mouth cannot. Today, I am ears and eyes, but never mouth.

Just a heads up, this is an incredibly dysfunctional town! There’s a lot of weird stuff happening behind closed doors, though our mysterious narrator can see all and is sure to share these secrets with us. Still, you have to wait to get the whole story as we follow each of the different characters through the carnival of then and now, trying to see how they fit into the story of the dead girl.

I don’t want to give too much away here, and I know the blurb isn’t all that clear, but I think it’s better that you don’t know too much too soon. Though there’s a murder (or is it?) mystery at the heart of the book, it’s best to just get caught up in the telling and enjoy the author’s unique delivery as much as the content within it. After that, maybe go back a second time for a better understanding of the events.

Author links: Website | Twitter

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

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