Reviewed by Scott A. Johnson
Written by Christina Barber
Published by HD Image
Julie Tayte and her family move into a secluded house on a pond in New Jersey, hoping to start a new life. Her husband, Ed, is a pastor with a new flock, while her son, Trevor, is a teen-ager who doesn’t like be uprooted from his home. It doesn’t really help that there’s something evil living at the bottom of the pond that wants to suck the life out of them. What follows is a story of disbelief, hardship, and Chinese demons.
From the get-go, this book suffers from several maladies, not the least of which is the slanted dialogue. While being grammatically correct is usually a good thing, people simply don’t speak with proper grammar, particularly if they’re teen-agers, or even real human beings. Every character in Seely’s Pond speaks as if they were an English teacher, regardless of age or background. Whether it is Julie, her son, or even a Chinese Feng Shui expert, everyone uses identical speech. They also continually name each other, as if the reader might lose track of who is speaking and to whom. It brings a distinct lack of depth to the characters that make their sorrows and trials unmoving, and makes them come across and underdeveloped and wooden.
In addition, there are several places in the book where the characters just don’t behave like real people. For example, anyone who has ever come into contact with teen-agers will give the one-eyed head-turn at just how jovial and complacent the character of Trevor is, especially when his only response to anything asked of him is “Okay, Mom.” The character is barely noticeable through the book for his Beaver-Cleaver attitude that is wholly unrealistic. Likewise, the other characters seem like mere idealizations of real people, with pleasant conversation and no real depth.
However, where Barber does succeed is in her vivid descriptions of the pond and the surrounding area. It’s very easy for the reader to visualize the hanging trees and the house out in the middle of nowhere. The pond itself is deftly painted, as is the house and the town in which it resides. Barber aptly describes the quaint, small-town setting with the ease of looking at a postcard. However, like a postcard, the town is limited to a single snapshot instead of real development of what its like and the people who live there. She also does manage to make the premise of an ancient Chinese curse in New Jersey work to the point of plausibility.
In all, Seely’s Pond isn’t bad, but one can’t help but get the feeling that it is rushed. The story, which clocks in at a brief 191 pages, could have benefitted from some lengthening and some real development of all the characters. It does show a great deal of imagination, which could focus Barber into a first-rate writer if she takes her time with the story and builds the plot more.
2 1/2 out of 5
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