Reviewed by Johnny Butane
Written by Gary A. Bruanbeck
Published by Leisure Books
From my earliest memories, I’ve always been uncomfortable around the elderly. My grandparents were fine, don’t get me wrong, but something about their actions, the way they always seemed to disapprove of anything anyone younger than them did, their general outlooks on the world made the bulk of older people seem, to me, like nothing but bitter humans whose lives didn’t go exactly the way they had planned and couldn’t forgive anyone else for trying to make their own time here better.
So it’s no surprise why Gary A. Braunbeck’s second Leisure release, Keepers, affected me on a deep level, something that very few authors are able to ever do effectively. I’ll get to why in a moment.
On his way home from the grand opening of his second store specializing in rare records and collectibles, Gil Stewart gets stuck in traffic and witnesses a man dressed to the nines in a suit get struck by a car while chasing his bowler hat across the road. Gil’s only thought is to retrieve and return the bowler, and as he does so the man whispers to him a phrase that sets in motion a chain of events that will unlock a long-lost memory and bring forth the truth of the real world around him: “The Keepers are coming”
From here we’re thrown back and forth in time We witness Gil as a young man, befriended by a beautiful girl 7 years his senior when he’s accidentally shot by a rubber bullet during the riots at Kent State. The two remain friends until something bad happens to her aunt, who raised when her mother couldn’t be bothered to do so, and it’s this memory that Gil has locked away. At the same time events unfold in the present with Gil’s nephew, who has Down’s Syndrome and believes he’s being told wonderful things by a mythical creature called Long-Lost. Braunbeck waits until the very end to bring it all together in one sweeping story about ancient creatures fighting their way back into our world after being shunned by God, and manages to create a mythology all its own that’s unlike anything else I’ve ever read.
It’s hard to put Keepers firmly in the realm of horror, though I guess that would be where it’s most comfortable. Braunbeck’s impeccable skills as an author are a great example of all that horror fiction should be; he’s at a level far above most others in the genre right now, and after reading both Keepers and In the Midnight Museum, it’s distressing that he’s still more or less an unknown among American readers.
What helps Keepers work so well as a narrative, aside from the painstaking detail Braunbeck puts into his main character, is the pacing. You’re getting comfortable, things are moving well for a while, so you begin to think things are going to start making sense; the pieces are ripe for falling into place. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a bizarre event occurs that throws both you and Gil out of it; usually something that begins to trigger a memory Gil’s had buried for all these years, and the path of discovery opens up all over again. It’s a great way to tell a tale like this, peeling back layer after layer until, right when you’re sure it can’t make any sense at all, everything falls into place.
Did I mention I really loved this book?
So what about my comment at the beginning of the review? Keepers, at its heart, is a story about loneliness, about that section of society that, be it due to old age, mental retardation, deformity, etc., aren’t treated like real people anymore, if indeed they ever were. Keepers made me think twice about the way I pre-judge some people upon sight, something I’m sure we’re all guilty of. Ultimately did it make me a better person? No, that’s the kind of road a mere novel can’t take you down, but it certainly helped me to see things from a different point of view, and how many books can you say have done that for you?
5 out of 5
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