March 30, 2019
Recently, I finished the book The Boy From The Basement, a 198-page novel by Susan Shaw, who was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and enjoyed playing with her cats and dogs, siblings, took music lessons, and played with the neighborhood kids. She graduated from Temple University with a degree in music. The Boy From The Basement was published in 2004. I chose to read this book, because while I was searching for another science fiction book, I came across this and found the title and summary of the book interesting. I soon checked it out of the Library Learning Commons and read it.
Charlie, a young boy, only remembers the basement, this is where he now lives until Father forgives him. He is oblivious to anything that’s happening. All he knows is that he is being punished for being bad and that the spider wants to get him. One night, Charlie goes to the bathroom and the door closes and locks on him. Charlie is panicking and soon ends up falling asleep on the ground where someone notices that he’s sick and takes him to the hospital. At the hospital, they tell Charlie that he is sick and that he is going to have to stay with them until he gets better. During his stay there, he meets Aaron, a twelve year-old boy who had surgery and is in recovery with Charlie. The become friends instantly and stay that way throughout the entire book. Charlie also meets Dr. Leidy, Charlie’s therapist. She helps Charlie talk about the basement and his father. Charlie is at first hesitant with talking to her because he thinks Father will be mad, but later realizes that it is better to keep Father away from him. Once he tells Dr. Leidy about who is parents are, she tries to find them, but they aren’t going to take him home. Instead, once he is fully recovered he goes with Mrs. Harrigan, his foster mom, and Ambrose, his foster brother. He cannot be with his parents, especially Mother, anymore and this makes him upset, but the more Charlie stays with Mrs. H and Ambrose, he realizes that he is lucky to be there and he enjoys his stay and wants it to stay like this. Mrs. H. gives Charlie a tutor, to help teach him what he missed during his stay in the basement for several years and not being able to go outside. Aaron still calls him regularly, and he is very much loving to live without Father. One day, when Charlie and Ambrose were playing outside alone because Mrs. H. had went to go get something, an unexpected visitor arrived. They came to tell Charlie to lie to the court and make sure that Charlie was defending them. Charlie sticks up for himself and says no. Then Mrs. H. arrives and shoos them off the property after Charlie has a final word with them. Then the court case arrives, and Charlie has won the case so that Mother is on probation and Father will be put somewhere in a mental institution. The book ends with Charlie going to one of Aaron’s soccer games, where he is better at going outside without having to worry about Father, and later playing with Ambrose yelling that they’re brothers.
I noticed how the author would italicize any onomatopoeia words that Charlie makes a connection with. Throughout the book, there are an assortment of onomatopoeia words italicized to display the word more. When Charlie feels the vibrating basses of the spider that is out to get him, “ihmm!-ihmm” (page 71 and a lot of other places) The more intense he feels the spider, the “bigger” the basses are. If the spider was calm it would act more like “ihmm”, but if the spider was more intense, the basses would be more “IHMMMM”. Another example of how onomatopoeia word are italicized, is when Dr. Leidy, Charlie’s therapist, goes down the hospital hallways with her high heels to see him.
“Clip-clunk! Clip-clunk! Here come those red shoes again. I open my eyes to see Dr. Leidy.” (page 67)
This passage shows how he connects the click and clunk of the high heels to Dr. Leidy. Whenever Charlie heard the click and clunk, he immediately knew that it was her, until one day she wore flats instead of high heels and he was confused on why he didn’t hear the high heels. I think that the author does this to show the connections that Charlie makes with everyday things. The spider basses make a connection of the basement, where he first spotted the spider, and fear, of the spider and the emptiness/loneliness of the basement. The high heel clicks and clunks make a connection between Dr. Leidy and his trust for her as they keep talking. The ring of the doorbell helps him understand that someone has arrived, because he is learning during his stay with his foster mom Mrs. Harrigan. Everything italicized has an important connection with Charlie.
I was angry when Charlie would believe that his father wasn’t doing anything wrong when he was. Charlie’s father made Charlie believe that whatever he did was bad and that his Father was “protecting” him from anything dangerous. When in reality, his father was being to “protective” that it became abusive. I put “protective” in quotations because sure his father was trying to hide him from dangerous things and be cautious, but what he did was too much. Reading a book is dangerous? Going outside is dangerous? Locking up your child in the basement with little to no food to learn a lesson is not dangerous? These were all things that brought me fury to how Charlie’s fathers mind worked. Charlie would put the blame on himself because his dad made him believe that it was Charlie’s fault.
“I wanted to stay outside forever. When Father appeared on the back porch, I was on the grass, jumping and laughing. I stopped right quick.
Get back in here. I told you–
Do you think we need the neighbors asking questions? Smack! None of their business who lives here. Smack! Now, sit over there until I tell you otherwise.” (page 28)
This passage shows how unreasonable Charlie’s father is. He won’t let his own child go outside because he doesn’t want the neighbors to “ask questions” or that it is “none of their business who lives here”. The neighbors should be able to know who lives in the house in case an emergency occurs. But no. Everything must be private because people can’t know that I lock my own child in the basement for “being bad.” I think the author might’ve made the Father act like this because she wants the reader to feel the emotion that Charlie lacks, which is reasonable understanding. He doesn’t understand why he’s being locked up, but he understands that it is his fault. He doesn’t know what Father really does to Mother, but he knows that it’s bad. In the beginning and middle of the book, there isn’t an understanding that Charlie fully acknowledges and accepts, until he realizes what Father has done and what a real family should be like.
I like how the author includes Ambrose to be Charlie’s foster brother. Ambrose is such a good character that helps show that what Charlie’s father did wasn’t justified. Ambrose knows that when Charlie doesn’t want to celebrate Thanksgiving, he understands. He knows what it is like to celebrate something without a family, especially if you want to be able to see them.
“‘You miss your parents.’ He doesn’t ask. He just says it like it’s a fact. Well, it is a fact.
‘They won’t even let me see Mother,’ I say. ‘Why can’t I at least see her?’
Ambrose seems to understand.
‘They won’t let me see my mom, either,’ says Ambrose. . . . . .
‘Why won’t they let you see her?’ I ask.
‘Well . . .’ He shifts his eyes away. ‘She did stuff and I got hurt. She pushed me down the stairs. That’s one thing she did.’” (page 146)
This passage shows the deep relationship these to have as foster brothers. Ambrose empathizes for Charlie because he knows what it feels like to be harmed by your own parents. He knows what its like to miss someone, even if they did something bad. He knows. And this is why I really liked how the author made a character that can relate to what Charlie has gone through. It may not be the exact same situation, but in the end, they’re both being taken away from their parents and family.
I was struck by this passage,
“‘Father,’ I say. How can words I say sound like I’m saying them sound so far away? ‘I will tell the truth in court. I will say you kept me in the basement. Because–you—did. And–I am not ruined. I am not!’” (page 186)
I was struck by this passage because Charlie is finally sticking up for himself against his father. This made me feel both proud and relieved. I was proud because he finally built up the courage to not be afraid of his father after all that he has done to Charlie. And relieved because Charlie said what has been needed to be said for the first time. While it makes Father angry, it is for the better to finally get rid of him once and for all.
I would rate The Boy From The Basement a nine out of ten. I enjoyed the book very much. It had exactly what I love, which is creepy and mystery kind of genres, but I wish there was more to it. More to what happened with the Father after the court and being put somewhere. More to the Mother and what she does without Father around. More to answer the unknown questions like does Charlie ever go to school? Does he ever get used to the outside? Does he become adopted? Does Ambrose become adopted? Maybe another book would be certain to answer those question, but I highly doubt that since this book was published 15 years ago. I recommend you to read it on your own one day.