THE LONG WEEKEND
Andersen Press (London)
Received from I Swim For Oceans and Savita Kalhan for review
Sam couldn't be more excited that he has found a best friend in Lloyd his first week at a new school and is looking forward to hanging out with him over the weekend. However, when both boys mistake the man offering them a ride home for the other boy's father, they find themselves in for a very different weekend than the one they had planned.
While Lloyd remains oblivious to their current situation thinking his wealthy father has planned some extravagant fun event for the two of them, Sam becomes increasingly aware of the danger they're in. Forced to separate upon arriving at a sprawling mansion, neither Sam nor Lloyd realize the full extent of the separate terrors both will have to endure before the weekend is over.
A spectacularly eerie and suspenseful tale, The Long Weekend wastes little time drawing us into the action and putting us on edge as the gravity of Sam and Lloyd's mistake settles over us with a tangible weight we carry with us to the very end. We want so badly to join in the boys' initial denial of their situation, hoping and wishing events will not unravel as we secretly know they will, the incessant tingling of our pebbled skin and the sick twist in our guts evidence we cannot ignore or rationalize away as we are forced to come to the same horrifying conclusion as Sam–that his situation is dire, his life is at risk, and his options are limited. For a story short in length it lacks for nothing, the tension and fear so thick we can almost taste it, our mouths shockingly dry while we repeatedly try to swallow past the lump in our throats and cling to vain hope we might be able to save Sam and Lloyd with the safety of our reality. Though our wish to rescue them is a futile one, Ms. Kalhan ensures we are with the boys every step of the way, pulses pounding so loudly we're convinced the villain will sense us and our fear ratcheting up with every echoing thump as we know we can do nothing but read on, invisible but involved companions to Sam and Lloyd through an experience that will profoundly change their lives.
Sam is a character of infinite loyalty and ingenuity, making up in mental strength what he lacks in physical as an eleven year old boy, assessing his situation with admirable calm and refusing to meekly accept his status as a victim. He thinks clearly and soundly, makes difficult decisions, and attempts to thwart a man bigger, stronger, and disgustingly unhinged. His patience with a very traumatized Lloyd is painful to witness, our hearts aching with every quiet reassurance uttered as we know even if both boys make it home, their lives will be irrevocably changed. Every time Lloyd freezes in fear we stop breathing, wondering if the time has come where he or Sam will accept defeat and resign themselves to a fate no child should have to endure, the anxiety pulsing in these quiet moments of indecision so potent our bodies tremble in anticipation, waiting, watching, and willing them to fight just a little longer.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of this story is Ms. Kalhan's ability to elicit extreme emotional reactions with her delicate handling of a difficult subject matter. Though it's clear to us what happens to Lloyd, the details are sparse, thereby augmenting an already suffocatingly tense atmosphere with the added uneasiness of the unknown. She works a similar magic on our villain, the description of him brief and succinct yet we feel the weight of his presence as though we have seen him clearly, knowing we will forever remember the feel of him–the chill and disgust he calls forth from us markers we will always recognize and associate with a monster. Though he never touches us physically as he does Lloyd, we do not walk away from this story unscathed, the remnants of his sickness remaining permanently with us as brands so deeply embedded in our skin they will never fully fade.
Overall, The Long Weekend is a story that both shocks and unnerves us, the depth of terror and fear punching us in the gut with a force we are grossly unprepared for, doubling us over as we choke and sputter and try to regain our equilibrium so we can walk side by side with Sam and Lloyd with the hope they will share in our recovery. Quick, fast, and unleashing a deluge of overwhelming emotions, this is a story that should occupy a spot at the top of everyone's to be read pile.
Stop back in this afternoon for my interview with Ms. Kalhan as well as a giveaway of The Long Weekend!