Exodus by Kimberly A. Bettes

Narrator: Rick Gregory

Publisher: Clifford Bettes (2017)

Length: 7 hours 29 minutes

Author’s Page

Set during the Great Depression, this horror historical fiction follows the Carlson family as they try to survive the biggest mistake of their lives. They stopped at a small mining town in Arizona (Exodus) on their way to California where they hoped to be hired on as fruit pickers. Now they have to do their best to survive Frank and his murdering cannibalistic family.

This is a horror fest. It’s not for the squeamish. If you can’t handle the first chapter, then this is not the book for you. Such was not the case for me. I listened to the whole thing and was entertained, grossed out, hopeful for the main character, and wanted the despicable family that perpetrated these acts dead.

Cannibalism, murder, rape, human lactation fascination, and incest make up this story. Frank’s family owns and runs the little diner in Exodus as well as the thrift store where they sell those items they take off of their victims. Frank’s mom is a loud, heavy handed matriarch that rules over her kids. Frank’s brother and his sister carry of an affair that they have to hide from Frank, since he gets rather jealous if his sister/lover even looks at another man. Yep, it’s one severely messed up family.

Sometimes the creepiness was a bit excessive like it was pushed to such a height simply to get a reaction out of the reader instead of moving the story forward. Occasionally it was gratuitous horror but over all I enjoyed the tale. I was really rooting for Anne, hoping she would get out of this hell hole with her baby James.

Speaking of them, this story was extra creepy for me because so many of the names match names of my family members. My paternal grandparents (also named John and Anne) were migrant farmers from Tennessee that went out to California to work in the fruit orchards. I have lots of cousins in small mining towns in Arizona because of this migration. My dad is also named James, though he was born in the 1940s instead of the 1930s. The characters John and Anne lost their first born daughter Sarah due to illness. My sister is named Sarah. So, yeah, talk about creepy! Now I want to ask my dad if there are any stories from that migration that the family doesn’t like to talk about.

Initially, I hoped that one of the Exodus siblings might turn good and help Anne, John, and James escape. Frank’s sister was the most likely candidate however she has a lot of serious character flaws to overcome. I did find that I was a bit squeamish about people suckling on Anne (she’s lactating for baby James). It didn’t bother me when it happened in Grapes of Wrath but here it feels like a violation instead of sharing nutrition.

Perhaps 2/3 of the way through, we get an info dump on Frank and his motivations. He’s this big monstrous object doing horrible things for most of the book and then we get a peak inside his head. I would have liked a bit more of that behind-the-scenes stuff in the first 2/3 of the book instead of one big info dump. Still, we got to know Frank a bit more before the big, messy finale. The ending was a good solid one that wraps up any questions. If you’re in the mood for a good jolt of horror to the system, then this in your book. I will be avoiding meat at small diners for a while.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Rick Gregory did a great job with this book. His female voices are feminine and distinct. He has individual voices for each of the characters and he’s so good at being scared and determined, or disgusting and sly, or angry and violent with his voice. He also went the extra mile and did a little special affect that included Frank’s favorite song that he likes to work to – ‘Ain’t We Got Fun’. He plays it in just the right moments and in little snippets so it doesn’t eclipse the narration.

What I Liked: Small Arizona mining town; Depression Era; John & Anne & baby James; Frank and his family are so easy to hate; initially, there might be hope for one of Frank’s siblings; the ending was solid; great narration.

What I Disliked: Some of the horror was for shock factor only; big info dump on Frank late in the book.

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