A Review of Christine Sutton’s Prodigal Son
Not to be confused with Jesus’ parable…Cover art for Prodigal Son recalls the film “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer,” and while the narrative bears that same intensity, Christine Sutton does not give us the luxury of cutaways or R-rated edits to soften its bloody edges. This is an extreme horror story, on the same level as the most brutal grindcore metal you’ve ever (or more likely, never) heard. But it’s important to note that Sutton is not going for the lurid puerile appeal of a true crime story, she is instead using that same approach to tell a story that is essentially a tragedy.
Timothy Shively is young man who might have been a productive, even valued member of society, but for an upbringing that leaves him emotionally stunted, an alien in his own skin. Looking for answers, some scrap of purpose to give his miserable life meaning, Tim sets out to find his father, who happens to be a horrific rapist/murderer–yet seems to harbor a deep love for his estranged son, as indicated in a letter Tim’s mother has kept hidden from him.
What happens next is not pretty–Shively’s demons are firmly in control for the bulk of his adventure, and they are some ugly bastards.
Sutton writes a direct and detailed kind of prose that flows well, keeping the reader coming back for more. Yet she possesses the instinct to keep it short; this is not a tale that rambles on, nor should it be. Her style and themes are reminiscent of Tina Wainscott, and there are times when reading either author that I cannot imagine myself going as far in my own writing. Be warned: it is graphic and harsh. The atrocities of Timothy Shively and company are far beyond the pale.