About the Author: Mr. Shivers, published by Orbit, is Bennett’s debut novel. He graduated from University of Texas- Austin and lives there currently. He also writes a blog about the book.
Mr. Shivers is a novel that starts out as one thing and slowly develops into another. Connelly, a man broken with rage and depression over the murder of his young daughter goes on the road as a vagrant in order to find, and kill, her murderer. A man he saw, with a scarred face that goes by Mr. Shivers.
Along his path he encounters many fantastic myths about the man, none of which he believes- at first.
The story begins as a run of the mill revenge story, one based in reality and set during the Great Depression, but as Connelly gets closer and closer to Mr. Shivers, the story falls deeper into myth, moving away from reality and becoming more magical.
Great Depression Setting:
Bennett draws a pretty basic depression setting. He includes a dust storm, many poor families heading west, and some other generally known details. Overall, the setting is threadbare at best. Bennett’s setting could be during almost any era, except he chose to call it the Great Depression. This was disappointing, as the novel could have felt richer and more realistic with more detailed descriptions. It ended up feeling poorly researched, if at all researched.
Connelly as protagonist:
Connelly is a decent protagonist, we want him to achieve his goals but are also shocked and disgusted at some of his actions. He develops well throughout the story, but his background and purpose remain hazy throughout the story. This was a major problem as it left me not really understanding why he was putting himself through the misery of his revenge quest. We are told from the begining that he is revenging his daughter’s murder, but we don’t know how she died or really anything about her. He remembers her smile, her laugh, but we never get a clear memory or piece of the past to visualize how much he loved her.
Another issue I had was that we never see who Connelly was before the murder. Seeing him in his normal state would have done a lot for watching his degredation to what he becomes. Instead we are given a Connelly already broken, and already hardened, having been on the road an unknown period of time before we meet him.
Mr. Shivers as antagonist:
Mr. Shivers, at first just a psychopathic vagrant, then mystical evil death man, works as an interesting antagonist. He is entirely evil from the begining, leaving no room for development. Bennett touches on Mr. Shiver’s past in Connelly’s dreams, where a young Mr. Shivers visits him (though I don’t think we’re suppose to realize that right away). This was a good touch, but just made the ending more obvious and didn’t really add anything to Mr. Shivers as a character.
Bennet also uses some Greek symbology and themes throughout the novel. Connelly is going on a strange odyssey, he meets three old wise women who tell him the future, and a white bull (symbolic of life and resurrection but also of death) plays a part towards the end. This is neither here nor there. The symbology he uses is common enough to be immediately recognizable and overused, and bores the accomplished reader.
The end was also predictable, though I am not certain if everyone would find it predictable, I certainly did. A predictable ending is always disappointing, but this story really couldn’t have any other ending. In order not to spoil the ending, I will not elaborate.
With all of that said, it was still an enjoyable read. It’s a qucik and easy read, I would suggest it for high school level reading or for someone who just wants an easy, entertaing story to enjoy.
It’s unfortunate, however, that Bennett didn’t take the extra time to make it richer. It had everything it needed, it just required some extra work. It could have been a work of art instead of the thing you read on an airplane, but then it probably would lose popularity.