Heart Shaped Box: Book Review
A Suit for His Collection
Creepy is an understatement.
A little slow to get on the Joe Hill bandwagon, I read Horns sometime around the movie appearing on Netflix and then followed the novel with The Fireman some time later, not taking into account what may be my favorite now of Hill's novels, Heart Shaped Box.
Judas Coyne is an aging rock star that has seen the world and romanced many a woman, those he only refers by their state. Obsessed with his macabre collection he keeps inside his farm house- Coyne and his assistant Danny are enticed by an offer for a haunted suit on a site "specifically not eBay."
Jude, knows he has to have this object after reading its lore that a man was to buried in it but when the suit didn't fit at the time of burial it was taken back to the family home where suddenly a woman and her young daughter were seeing the ghost of the old man around their home. Jude knows that he has to have the suit, planning to maybe even wear it someday as he jokes to Danny.
Soon after the arrival of the suit, Jude and his current live in girlfriend, a goth woman named Marybeth who he refers to only as her state of origin, Georgia. The suit is encased in a black heart shaped box- like the type that Valentines Day candy or jewelry would arrive inside. As Georgia lifts the suit from inside the box, she is suddenly pricked by a pin- receiving a wound that will not heal.
It is from this first night and touching the foul suit inside that Jude begins to see the old man inside his house. The man's eyes are blackened out in squiggles like they have been colored over with marker, but they are alert an watching. Jude tries to contact the seller on the website and finds out details that instantly make his skin crawl.
The Old Man
His eyes are blacked out like they were scribbled with marker, but the old man is alert and watching from inside Judas Coyne's farmhouse looking to infect the man and every associate he comes into contact with.
An Offer Jude Can't Resist
Contacting the seller of the suit, Judas realizes that the whole selling of the suit was a trap set specifically for him. The seller, a woman named Jessica is the sister of a former live in girlfriend, a woman that was only known as Florida in her time staying with Jude.
Suffering from manic depressive tendencies, Jude realizes that Florida needs more help than he can give her and as the relationship falls apart, urges her to return to her family. With a little prodding she finally leaves, but writes a few letters to Jude over the coming weeks hoping to reunite. Instead he turns to alcohol and finds Georgia while visiting a strip club.
Florida killed herself when she was back home and her sister Jessica blames Jude for her death. When their stepfather dies soon after, it is the plan of Jessica to trick Jude into purchasing the ghost of her stepfather from buying the suit in hopes that the vengeful ghost never lets Jude live down what he had done to Florida.
The curse of the stepfather is similar to what Hill's father, Stephen King conveyed in Thinner and Jude and his friends can not out run the spirit of the old man. After Danny's death, Jude and Georgia decide to make a run for it hoping that a final confrontation with Jessica can get the cursed suit out of their possession.
Similar to the gypsy curse in Thinner, Jude and Georgia can not out run the curse of the old man and he begins to possess them.
Other Joe Hill Novels and Short Stories
Locke & Key Series
20th Century Ghosts
A Terrible Truth
Judas and Georgia trek through several states haunted by the old man and his phantom pickup truck that always seems just behind them. They realize that while others that come into contact with them can't see the old man, he can affect the atmosphere around them.
They realize that the ghost of the old man is afraid of Jude's two German Shepards, Angus and Bon, who even in death serve their master.
Reaching Florida, and seeing Jessica somehow isn't enough and Jude realizes that he still hasn't found a way to reverse the curse from himself. He is horribly wounded from losing a finger and bleeding out profusely after Jessica's daughter confronts them in the garage. Georgia on the other hand whom has never healed with being stuck with a pin from pulling the suit from the box, is dying as well.
Jude, while hallucinating in the car- realizes now that Florida; now revealed with her true identity as a woman named Anna; really enjoyed her time living with Jude. Anna's mental problems were result of her tragic upbringing after her mother's death and she was never able to heal from the sexual abuse that she and Jessica suffered at the hands of their stepfather while he had hypnotized them. By sending her home during her mental break, Anna had come across knowledge while living back at the family home that the stepfather had passed along his abuse to Jessica's daughter and Anna had threatened to go back to Jude knowing that they were still friendly enough that he would be able to hire a lawyer to get Jessica's daughter away from the family and Jessica and the stepfather in jail.
Knowing that they would never be able to let Anna contact Jude, Jessica and her stepfather plotted to murder Anna when she was hypnotized again and slit her wrists, using the story that she was so distraught from the break up with Judas Coyne that she had killed herself in the bathtub weeks after returning home.
Knowing what she knew about Jude's collection, Jessica had manufactured the email ad and online sale of the suit manipulating that Jude was the only bidder so that he in sound mind bought the cursed suit and ghost it contained on his own so it was bound to him.
Jude and Georgia arrive at his family home in Louisiana, where his dying father's nurse is able to keep them alive and Jude gets to say some of things he needed to get off his chest since leaving home at nineteen to never see his father again. The ghost makes another go at Jude and Georgia and ultimately now understanding the manipulation of the ghost, they are able to defeat with the help of Anna.
I really recommend reading this book. I hadn't known much about the story when I picked it up going on good faith of the name of an author I knew I enjoyed to find his debut novel is actually one of his best reads.