Out of Eden

The Official Web Site of Peter Johnson — Out of EdenIn the time since his parents’ divorce, Stony hasn’t had much to say to his father. It’s not just the embarrassing things his father does in public, like picking fights with strangers on the golf course, needling his ex-wife about the car she drives, and asking girls whether they’re attracted to Stony. It’s also that his father hasn’t talked with him–even once–about his taste in books or girls, or about the painful stuff that has happened, like his grandmother being murdered, “inexplicably,” as Stony’s psychiatrist says. Then it’s summer, and whatever their relationship issues, Stony is headed for a New Hampshire vacation with his father, his sister, Molly, and his father’s girlfriend, Sally. They plan to hike, watch movies at the condo, and visit the local caves. But at their very first stop to get a burger along the turnpike, Stony’s father gets into an argument with a creepy-looking skinny guy and his huge friend. Sally calms Stony’s father down, and the four of them drive away from the rest area—-but not, it turns out, from the skinny guy and his friend. OUT OF EDEN is not just about the loss of innocence, it’s about coming face-to-face with evil.

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Kirkus Reviews

A family vacation goes asunder amid notes of Deliverance, religious delusions and frighteningly plausible violence. Seventeen-year-old Stony and his sister, Molly, have been roped into a road trip to New Hampshire with their father and his live-in girlfriend. The siblings commiserate about the trip and their clueless father’s teasing and hotheaded machismo. At a rest stop en route to their vacation rental, their father has a confrontation with two derelict characters, Leopold and Abraham. Abraham is a simple brute, but Leopold is a complex religious zealot who fancies himself an angel of death, chosen to exterminate those undeserving of life. After the tense and foreboding run-in, Stony and his family are marked and subsequently hunted by Leopold and Abraham. Stony’s calm strength and extensive knowledge of psychoses (his grandmother’s murder catapulted him into thorough studies of warped human minds) counteract the rash, hasty temper of his well-intending father. Though the majority of the novella is told in third person from Stony’s point of view, there are brief, rambling and frightening glimpses into the mind of Leopold as he calculates with Bible-based fervor why and how his victims should die. At one point, Stony’s father says, “How can you explain something so cruel and pointless?” It’s the inexplicability of cruelty that makes this horrifying page-turner so effective. A compelling portrayal of inevitable, realistic violence and evil personified.