A riveting, shocking, and perversely entertaining debut novella by Luke Gherardi, Children of Violence is a once-in-a-generation story that creatively and bluntly exposes the tragic, violent, meaningless, and hopeless side of life.
“Children are brought into this life expected to grow up and be functional adults,” says Luke, 36. “This is not that story.”
Four kids, all with different backgrounds, fight for their place in this world. Racism, abuse, religion, and hate all stand in the way of growing up 'normal'. Can they make it out? Could you?
“I grew up in a broken household where dysfunction was normalized,” shares Luke.
His parents divorced when he was two. His mother, from the Philippines, was a religious fanatic to the point of her living a cult-like life with her survivalist friends. His dad, white, was a boozer and pill popper, a mentally unstable hustler who lived in the Black, gang-infested streets of St. Louis. It was a bizarre childhood that was impacted by adults who did not know how to be normal.
“I was fortunate to get out and make a life for myself,” says Luke.
His quick-moving, intensive, and often shocking story is told in an unusual way, using multiple narrators and time sequences. Its authentic approach to dialogue and language gives every exchange a feeling of being a witness to something real. Each chapter tells someone’s story in quick flashes that reduce everything to life and death choices, moments that you can’t take back but spend an eternity reflecting on. The vignettes capture the violent, doomed, and cycle-of dread lives that permeate inner cities today. It shows how violence shapes our lives.
“This unconventional book doesn’t really have a traditional protagonist,” says Luke. “I have characters that are supposed to be good, but are actually bad – and character that are bad (or think they are) that want to be good.”
A bleak reality bloodies each and every page. In revealing the darkest side of real life, we discover there are no heroes, only survivors. If that. Amidst the carnage of dreams delayed and then destroyed, there are stories of: Abuse. Hate. Religion. Racism. Suicide. Pain. Murder. Rage. Desperation. Fear.
And yet, as much as it challenges the reader to absorb, it dares us to not look away, and to see life for what it really is like for some.
Meet the four main characters:
Reeves' mother belongs to a cult. The cult believes that you must be a Soldier of Christ. But to be a soldier, you must fight.
Robbie is the son of an addict prostitute. He's raising his little brother alone, while trying to avoid his mother's pimp.
Gracie is a pretty girl that lives in a nice house in the suburbs. Life is perfect for her family from the outside. None of her neighbors know the truth. Her father is an enforcer for the mafia.
Cole's father is a neglectful alcoholic. His father lives only for one reason- to kill again.
These kids all have to face the violence eventually, and it all comes together in a climax where even the best of intentions results in innocence lost.
Welcome to a reality-based, fictionalized world crafted out of the author’s direct childhood experiences, observations, and imagination. In some ways, it is a coming-of-age book. In many ways, it is poetic violence in the raw, filled with events that should never even be once-in-a-lifetime moments that all too often repeat themselves.
Luke’s fluid but insightful writings will force readers to confront these questions:
Where do kids turn when failed adults share their lives?
Is there hope of escaping one’s environment?
How does anyone break the cycle of poverty, crime, and dysfunction?
What would you do to beat the odds of survival?
Does your childhood dictate the rest of your life?
What happens to people, and those around them, in the aftermath of bad decisions?
Is there hope for the next generation?
Children of Violence: A Novella is a compact, engrossing, fast-paced, visceral exploration into a swath of time and place that invades your soul. It brings us behind the scenes to the darkest corners of life. It may take just a few hours to read, but it is a story that will have a lasting impact on you.