I can’t remember how, or where, I first found out about Body of Christ, but I was intrigued by the first line of the cover blurb -
After his first holy communion, a boy secretly builds his own Jesus out of communion wafers and the flesh of his dad.
That sounded so unusual, so bizarre and fantastical, that I had to give it a read.
I had no idea what it was going to be about, and I went into it blindly, fumbling about with my puny expectations based solely on that line of the blurb.
Part of me was expecting something very gruesome, a grotesque marvel of gore and depravity. What I found instead was something subtler. Blood and gore, replaced by the surreal and the thought-provoking.
Everything about the novella was a pleasant surprise that far exceeded expectations. More so as when I first opened the parcel and got my hands on the book. I did, admittedly, have a slight feeling of disappointment when I opened it and found the font size was large enough to read from the next town over. I nearly buried it in my TBR pile just because my own petty idiosyncrasies made me feel that I had inadvertently bought something cheap and tacky. It’s petty - I know, but that was my initial reaction.
Luckily, I sat down and started reading, and am I glad that I did.
The story focuses upon two children who live over the road from one another.
Keagan lives with his bible-bashing obese mother and his frail and weak father, who is being ground down day by day from excruciating back pain and the religious fervour of his zealous wife. For Keagan, his safe space is the closet in his bedroom. A dark hideaway where he can relax and feel at peace. A hideaway containing treasures he has found and kept secured in zip-lock bags. Treasures such as a dried worm or the watery and now melted heart of a snowman. As things progress, his treasures grow to include flesh, in both a real form and a symbolic one. Flesh that Keagan begins to shape and craft.
The other child of the story is Faith. Another child brought up in a religious household. A girl haunted by the ghostly scream of her mother who died when her life-support machine was switched off. When Faith has her first period, she has no female guidance, and unable to turn to her father, she now begins to hear the mournful wails of her lost eggs.
Body of Christ is a unique story that grips so well that you’ll be wanting to read it in a single sitting. Even when you’ve put it down, it will stick with you through its mixture of originality and strangeness. To say that I fully understood the events contained within the pages would be a lie, but I can live with that. It’s something not so much incongruous, as it is mysterious, and it’s one of those instances where I’m happy to have experienced something unknown and not have everything explained to me.
Matthews has created a truly entertaining story, with situations that I’ve not read before. It’s an interesting, thought-provoking, beautiful nightmare, and as a result, I now need to read more of his work.
You can find Body of Christ on Amazon UK in both kindle and paperback formats