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Reviewed by Ruffina Oserio for Readers' Favorite
Boy in the Hole by Akiva Hersh is a disturbing story that explores parenting, family dynamics, and the effects of conflicting values in the life of a young boy, Jacob. Right from the beginning, the reader is introduced to a weird, somewhat disturbing sexually abusive experience on a honeymoon. Klaus treats Audrey like a toy on their honeymoon and this reflects the pervading atmosphere that overshadows Jacob’s upbringing. It is the seventies in the Deep South, and this family is riddled with alcoholism and a disturbing sexual license. He receives help from a tribe of mentors in defining his identity and understanding his sexuality, but can he fully embrace who he is? Follow this protagonist as he makes a journey that will bring him face-to-face with himself on a quest for inner freedom.
Akiva Hersh is a good storyteller and writes strong themes into the narrative, juxtaposing religious hypocrisy with sexual waywardness, and creating situations that make the young protagonist question the values of his family. Jacob is a genuinely flawed protagonist, a character with a life that symbolizes the effects of domestic abuse. The reader quickly learns to care about him as he gets yelled at and finds himself unsure of what to believe. In a society where moral values are being quickly replaced by the commercialization of sex, a book like this one comes across as a powerful reminder of the harm that young people suffer when the environment doesn’t reflect those values that help them develop self-esteem and self-love. The story is balanced, well-plotted, and realistic. The prose is exquisite, punctuated by powerful and interesting dialogues. Boy in the Hole will provoke reflection in readers while entertaining them in many ways.