Monday, December 4, 2017

Black Bottle Man by Craig Russell

Forced to move every twelve days, what would happen to your life?

It’s 1927. Rembrandt is the only child in the tiny community of Three Farms and his two aunts grow desperate for babies of their own. Hope and Hell arrive in a mysterious black bottle, and on a moonless night a dark spell is cast. The devil seeks payment, and a dangerous wager is made. Until they can defeat him, Rembrandt, Pa, and Uncle Thompson must embark on the journey of their lives, for if they stay in one place for more than twelve days terrible things happen. But where and when will they find a champion capable of defeating the Black Bottle Man?

Time ticks.

Lives change.

Every twelve days.
What a treat to be almost at the end of the year and read a book that instantly leapt to the top of my 2017 favorites list. I finished it and wanted to give a copy to everyone I knew who loves a good folk tale, a good deal-with-the-devil tale, good historical fiction, or (most of all) a story that speaks to the reader on several levels.

As we learn the story of the deal with the devil and how Rembrandt, his father, and uncle take on the task of saving souls, we are also taken on a trip through American history with special emphasis on the Great Depression. Rembrandt's voice is strong and vivid. I felt I knew this boy as we traveled together seeking redemption for those he loves. The scenes on farms, in factories, and in small town America were also vivid, as were the present day scenes when we flash to 90 year old Rembrandt.

Any story where someone is dealing with the devil opens the door to considerations of faith and that is handled both honestly and delicately in this book. The insights and observations throughout the book underlie the main story in a way that lends itself to considerations of gratitude, mercy, selfishness, sacrifice, and much more — all without being too obvious for those who just want to read a great story. There's also the fun of trying to figure out just how one can outsmart the devil in a deal that seems unbreakable.

It is is marketed to teens but I'm not the first reviewer to mention that label is too limiting because it is also a great read for adults.

I can't adequately describe this book but it is simply wonderful. Get it. Read it. And give it to those who love a wonderfully told good story.

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