When the Serpent Bites – by Nesly Clerge – Review

I was quite impressed with this book overall. The very first thing I liked is the adroitness the author showed in conjuring an atmosphere that seems quite relatable yet somewhat layered in mystery, so that it looks like an enchanted land. Indeed, the following passage brings to life the suburb in a way as you feel like you have lived there before; at the same time, it engulfs you with a fear of the unknown; perhaps this is the author’s way of indicating the events that are about to befall the hero of the novel which would result in his ‘fall’:

“The moon was a pale sliver above him. Elm, cedar, willow, and holly trees, and anything else not under cover in the Boston suburb of Weston, were coated with frost that promised to be thicker by morning. The effect was one of an enchanted place, a serene place that sparkled in patches and swaths on the landscape. The stillness was broken only by the occasional nocturnal creature hunting prey. Scented smoke plumed from chimneys as fires below dwindled and died. Residents in this affluent town eagerly, or anxiously, contemplated plans for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday just two weeks away, while children dreamed of the holiday to follow. In so many ways, it was a perfect night in a perfect neighborhood. ”

The character’s emotions are brought to light in an equally skillful manner. His sense of being betrayed by his wife, his pride (“I own my businesses. He gets a paycheck.”), are all brought out well. Indeed, the protagonist and his wife have their unique, eccentric ways to vent their individual frustrations.

All the while, I cannot help but thinking this would have been a masterpiece had the author used a first person rather than third person narrative. I also got the feeling that the main character too often came across as a self-pitying man – I think he should be proud of himself and what’s achieved, rather than making his wife’s deception his sole focus.

The dialogs are as gritty as they get. Starks’ reaction toward the end of the novel is highly justifiable, considering what he’s gone through:

““I promise you that her lifestyle, which she likes not having to work for, is way more important to her than I am. She’s making a show, and I don’t appreciate it. The last thing I want is for her to come here weeping and wailing. The woman has no sense. She was a mistake. I bury my mis-takes.” Starks covered his face with his hands. “Oh God. I don’t mean that my son with her was a mistake. He was never a mistake.”

And thereby he had completely developed as a round character, especially when he acknowledges that ‘She was a mistake. I bury my mis-takes’ – yep, time to move on bro.

In the end, I have only one thing to say: that I cannot recommend this book enough for you. Go ahead and check it out: you will be glad you did!