He Said – Ulysses Dietz She Said – Melissa Brus
Reviewed by Ulysses Dietz
Member of The Paranormal Romance Guild Review Team
Wow. This is a remarkable, moving, epic story about ghosts, demons, America’s heartland, and the power of faith and love to (maybe) save the world.
The first third of F.E. Feeley’s collaboration with Kim Fielding is set in 1991, and the second two-thirds takes place in 2019, as the United States is increasingly polarized by a president who appears determined to stir up everything dark and ugly lurking below the surface of the American psyche.
I was startled to realize that I know little about Kim Fielding’s writing; although I dug into my vast e-book order history and discovered that I’d purchased – and loved – two of her books back in 2013, Brute being the one I really engaged with. Fielding’s skill with character, and her ability to bring people to life on the page in all their nuanced complexity is evident in this collaboration.
F.E. Feeley’s work I know very well, and I also know something of the author’s background. Thus, it was easy to see Feeley’s presence in the emotionally intense story, embodied in the struggles of Joseph Moore to reconcile the fundamentalist religious training of his youth with his shifting ideas of faith, personal integrity, and even the existence of God.
Francine Basil, Creole fortune-teller and holder of a PhD in theology, is also a character out of Feeley’s earlier novels, but she has never had the kind of central presence she holds here. Feeley’s other novels are referenced in Hallelujah, as are some of his characters, as if this book is a kind of culmination (or, possibly, a new beginning) for his previous work.
Joseph, dutiful farmer’s son, has returned to Lenora, Nebraska, rather than pursue his career in music. He has the gift of music, which he embraces in a limited way by taking over the choir in the local Baptist church. Of course, this sets up barriers to Joseph’s happiness, because it means he must shutter his gay self – explored in college – in order to conform to the expectations of his family and community. There’s another gift from which Joseph runs – his lifelong ability to see ghosts. Rather than see this as a gift for which there might be some purpose (divine or otherwise), Joseph again shutters himself away from it. In this case, however, the end result is a tragedy that changes his life forever and sets Joseph up for what happens to him in the second part of the book.
Feeley and Fielding have created a cinematic story, with strong visuals that give the reader a sense of physical and psychological place. There is a road trip (a journey of discovery) that offers a vivid panorama of the American heartland. There are also several cataclysmic confrontations of horror-movie intensity that would be terrifying on the screen. However, it isn’t the shocking visuals created by the authors that shine brightest to a reader such as I; it is the quiet, personal moments that brought tears to my eyes and filled my heart with hope. For all its action, this is a deeply spiritual story.
Ultimately, Hallelujah is a tale of humanity grappling with its own evil as God and Satan look on. There is a very tricky anti-religious theology at work here, and I was amazed to find myself responding to it in unexpected ways. I need only note that the title is inspired not by the refrain of a Christian hymn, but by Leonard Cohen’s song of the same name. (I listened to it several times as I read the story.) This is a book for the anxious, angry times in which we live, and its message of redemption is both a promise and a warning.
Reviewed by Melissa Brus
Member of the Paranormal Romance Guild Review Team
This book is amazing. It is the best of Kim Fielding and the best of F.E. Feeley all mixed in together in these pages. Fans will see references from past works sprinkled in. New readers will be swept up in a story that has ghoulies and ghosties and romance and adventure and characters that stay with you after you put down the book in the best possible way. (Whew. Had to get all that in one sentence.) My favorite part was how they incorporated different cultural expectations of the afterlife into the story.
Joseph is such a great main character. His struggles of faith, of sexual identity, and of his “sight” pull the reader in and don’t let you go. Joseph’s relationship with Kevin was both sweet and heart wrenching. There were unexpected twists and turns. Extra coffee was needed after this book because there was no way I was sleeping until “The End”. I am not a horror fan and I saw this as more of a phenomenal ghost story than horror. It is a must read for paranormal fans!