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"All the Colors of the Dark"| Reviewed by Chris Stuckenschneider

Updated: Jul 4

I finished “All the Colors of the Dark” with a sigh knowing I’d been immersed in an upcoming classic, a novel that would be one of my personal favorites like “All the Light We Cannot See,” “The Book Thief,” and “The Kite Runner,” to name a few.

Brit author Chris Whittaker astounds with his compelling coming-of-age story, a mystery/thriller with complex, beautifully drawn characters. All this and set in Missouri too, added appeal for local readers familiar with places Whittaker includes, the mountains in the southeast part of our state, the penitentiary in Jefferson City, as well as the lush flora and fauna of Missouri’s rural landscapes.

Jewels like “All the Colors of the Dark” are treasures to be mined, and we bask in wonderment when we come across a book that hits us so solidly in the heart. Much of Whittaker’s success resides in his protagonist, John Macauley, nicknamed Patch because he is born with only one eye, his alcoholic mother sewing patches to disguise his birth defect, a defect that doesn’t take the starch out of the boy.

Patch not only looks like a pirate he plays the part, wielding a stick like a sword, and engaging in petty thefts in fictional Monta Clare. Patch lives with his mother in a rundown house and becomes best friends with another outcast in town, Saint, a plain girl with a heart of gold being raised by her grandmother, who keeps the bills paid by driving a school bus.

Patch and Saint meet as a result of Saint raising bees, a hobby Patch appreciates for the sweet treat he’s privy too. Patch and Saint form a bond that lasts throughout their lives, their relationship providing one of the story’s main arcs.

After Whittaker embellishes his peaceful small town setting with atmospheric detail, he lands his first punch—a violent incident hits the community hard, any semblance of innocence shattered when the prettiest girl in town, Misty Meyer, who Patch has always had a crush on, is accosted in the woods. Patch hears a scream while he’s walking along some rusty railroad tracks and catches a glimpse of a van and a girl on the ground fighting off a masked man.

Patch rushes into the fray, offering Misty the chance to break free, and at Patch’s urging, run for all she’s worth, leaving the boy to deal with injuries he incurs and the emotional fallout of being kidnapped and kept in confinement, where he meets Grace, a girl also being held prisoner, the only port in a storm that keeps Patch from giving up hope of surviving.

To divulge great detail about Patch’s fate would be a disservice to readers. Suffice it to say that Patch does escape and we get to follow him well into adulthood—years in which Patch struggles and suffers mightily, his quest to find Grace remaining steadfast, making this larger than life hero the stuff of legends, his end justifying his means.

The life paths of his trusted friends Saint and Misty Meyer, as well as other minor, richly drawn players also add to a story that picks up steam as it jettisons us along, plot surprises peppered about in a nearly 600-page epic, divided into short chapters.

“All the Colors of the Dark” is no doubt set for greatness—word of a television series has already been announced. As the book hits bookstore shelves, Whittaker is on an extensive book tour. He’ll visit Left Bank Books in St. Louis for a book talk and signing on Sat., July 27th at 7 p.m.



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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