Score: 89/100 (8.9 out of 10)
Hell's Half Acre is the first book in the Fire and Rain Chronicles, and it's a captivating and haunting real-life tale about trauma, rape, domestic abuse, and overcoming those things to find new light.
We've read our share of books likes this, yet each one hits differently. Hell's Half Acre is truly gripping with the emotional impact that it brings. This book will make you grit your teeth, clench your hands tightly, and cry.
This is an incredibly heavy book that covers several triggering topics. However, it does so with honesty, transparency, heart, soul, and tact. You can tell that the writing of this book was incredibly cathartic for the author. They truly spilled their heart out when putting this together.
This book is actually decently written (except in two particular aspects), and the scenarios we are presented with are truly captivating. These real-life figures compelled us, perhaps more than more fictional characters ever have.
Lee (the author/narrator) is an absolutely fascinating person as presented in this book. Lee is a victim of rape and multiple types of abuse, not only from his monstrous father but also by others. Lee comes out as bisexual in a very conservative and unaccepting Frederick, Maryland community—the location of the notorious “Hell's Half Acre” where the author's family had to bury about a half-dozen family members, many killed under violent circumstances. This includes multiple miscarriages deliberately perpetrated by the author's father.
Speaking of the author's father, he is one of the most chilling and frightening villains we've encountered. It becomes evident early on that he's responsible for the author's mother's death (in her 40s) due to the abuse he inflicted. He is also a notorious figure in the community who is known for fighting with and beating up everyone and anyone. At the same time, it's interesting to examine him and try to understand how he became such a monster. You can go back and see that he was a veteran who fought the Japanese during World War II, and was wounded in action. He is also an out-of-control alcoholic, which seems to be the root of his problems.
There are also great supporting figures/characters who show up in this book including Jimmy (the author's surrogate brother who passed away due to suicide), Bonnie (his sister, who passed away in an accident), and his mother.
The poetry in this book is also excellent. Heck, even the prose is poetic at times. One of our favorite lines was: Not even a gallon of “Clorox Bleach” could ever disinfect or wash away their own imperfections and dirty deeds
Really, the only thing we absolutely, positively could not stand about this book it was the formatting and style of it. It's tragic because—once again—this is SUCH a great narrative, it's just presented in a way that's an eye-sore with most of the text italicized and words sporadically bolded or in ALL-CAPS. Please don't do that. It really distracted and detracted from an incredible book that would've scored a 9.3-9.5 otherwise.
Check this out on Amazon!