Title: Our Frail Disordered Lives
Author: Mary M. Schmidt
Genre: Horror / Paranormal / Demonic
In Our Frail Disordered Lives, one demon breaks free of his binds in Hell to prove his boss wrong—that is, the Devil himself. Roach has been a demon since the fall of Lucifer, but Hell isn’t what he thought it would be. With his failure to meet Satan’s standards at his current job and a seven hundred-year-old grudge he’s holding, Roach is ready to go rogue. His exploration of the Upper World introduces him to humans that give him the perfect opportunity to show Satan who’s really boss.
When Dante and Virgil were permitted to explore the various depths of Hell, Roach knew his story as a demon would be the perfect one for them to tell. But Satan had other plans: he didn’t think Roach was evil enough to be spoken to at all. The Divine Comedy would follow Roach almost everywhere he went for the next few hundred years, haunting him for what could have been, and he never forgave Satan for it.
Roach’s malevolent nature and his corrupt outlook on life are humorous and add a light-hearted approach to the otherwise frightening figure as a demon from Hell. Some of his strongest scenes are those highlighting his ordinary friendship with another demon, which just so happens to be entirely based on their pride in revolting against God.
The last straw comes when Roach’s latest contract with a human, Larry Kavanaugh, who is trying to sell his soul to the Devil, falls flat with Satan. Roach abandons Hell to wreak havoc on the Upper World, bringing evil into the lives of anyone he can find. When he realizes that he can go after Larry himself, he begins a rogue operation to spite Satan.
The human characters are vastly different in both their personalities and their thought processes. Roach’s main target Larry is a fake lawyer who thinks he can pull one over on everyone, even the Devil. His wife Kathleen, her sister Grace, and their childhood classmate Dorothy become roped into Larry’s mess, resulting in a diverse, entertaining set of subplots that drive the story.
Grace’s cats, named Dante and Virgil, were featured multiple times throughout the novel. Their names being connected to Roach’s hatred of The Divine Comedy was inherent; their constant presence felt less like a looming reminder to Roach of his past and more like an explicit nudge to the reader from the author to make connections, ultimately weakening the impact of the cats’ symbolism.
The final chapter is peculiar in both its form and its content; unlike the other chapters, it shares perspectives with every character in the novel. The ending’s austerity is a bit jarring in its dark realism, and is one of the few times the book emulates a horror novel, but it successfully rounds out the novel with no doubt that the characters have learned their lessons.
All hell (literally) breaks loose when the worlds of demons and humans collide in Our Frail Disordered Lives. Entertaining and unexpected twists in this paranormal story will shock, thrill, and disturb readers. Schmidt’s funny, relatable, despicable, and witty characters form an intriguing story about the strange meeting the ordinary.
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