Joseph sees ghosts. Sometimes they are quiet, seeming to need or want little from him, but other times they are scary and insistent. Joseph remembers the time when he was young and saw the first one. He ran screaming to his mother and she comforted him. But Joseph’s mother is long gone and now he is back in Lenora, Nebraska with a useless music degree running the choir at the First Baptist church and helping his aging dad keep their failing farm alive. Joseph has never told another soul about his gift and is fairly sure his father would just scoff at him if he did mention it to him. That’s not the only problem poor Joseph grapples with, however. He is also hiding the fact that he is gay. Joseph is so torn about his desires. He knows it’s considered sinful and he tries to deny his feelings, but they never go away.
When Joseph is offered a ride home one night after choir practice by a choir member, he meets her brother, Kevin, and a spark ignites. It will lead to a clandestine affair between the two young men until a strange dream followed by a disturbing encounter with a malevolent spirit changes everything. Joseph is warned that evil is coming and he must be the one to defeat it before it destroys everyone he loves.
The novel Hallelujah pairs up two marvelous authors, Kim Fielding and F.E. Feeley Jr.. Dipping into the paranormal world with chilling success, this story is one that I actually had to read during the daylight hours as it got a bit too real for me at night. There are parts of this novel that just make the hair on your arms rise up and a cold sweat trickle down your spine. The pair of authors did a fantastic job creating a malevolent evil that stalked Joseph and later two other people who team up with him to try and defeat it. The times when Joseph sees spirits is so well crafted—suspenseful and eerie– and no matter how benign they may turn out to be, the terror that Joseph feels just in seeing them is so real that it made me jump as well.
There is a considerable time gap in this novel that is a bit shocking at first, but then becomes clearer as the present day takes over. This second half of the novel deals more directly with the idea of there being a supreme being, addressed as God, and what, if any, power the figure has in helping Joseph defeat the evil stalking him. These passages were pretty intensely religious and while I had no real problems with what is presented, I do think the religious overtones were heavy and could be a turn off for some. I was surprised at the amount of story time spent on exploring a heavenly deity, but I do think given the subject matter dealt with in the novel, it did have to be addressed.
I will say that the first half of the novel is less disturbing than the latter half solely due to the fact that the present day is rife with horrific national issues that are touched upon in this section and there is no escaping the message that evil is allowed to flourish because people can be pretty ugly and unkind, to put it mildly. In other words, the book tells us we have free choice and can choose to hate rather than love—leaving one open to the influences of evil spirits to possess and act through a person. Yet the main message here is handled with great dexterity and wrapped up in a thrilling plot that keeps it from becoming too preachy.
Hallelujah is a great collaborative effort from Fielding and Feeley. It is parts terrifying, parts introspective, and parts cautionary. No matter how you view a higher power, there is no denying these two authors have written a fast-paced, suspenseful and scary novel, one that you may just have to leave the lights on to read.