Horror isn’t always about monsters. Some of the best horror – quiet horror if you will – deals with loss, life and love.
No one seems to know this better than Tim Lebbon and he’s willing to share this with readers in the most effective manner in his novella, The Thief of Broken Toys (available from Chizine Publications). Beautifully crafted, elegantly delivering blow after blow to readers’ hearts and souls, this 2010 publication is a relentless study of the destruction death delivers to loved ones, especially parents.
The book deals with Ray, an English father whose young son, Toby, died. How Toby died – Lebbon alludes to the fact it was sudden but not through any nefarious deed – isn’t important, it’s the impact of his death that matters here. The boy’s death rips Ray’s marriage to shreds and leaves him a loner, living in the marital house now devoid of any other life than Ray’s and vacant of any joy. Adding to the melancholy that blankets the home is the fact Toby’s room, though changed somewhat since the lad’s death, still contains reminders of the boy, specifically a box of broken and busted toys.
As any parent can tell you, broken toys are commonplace with young children and just as common are those empty promises that the busted toy will be fixed. Instead of living up to our oath to our children that those items will be repaired they’re more often forgotten, discarded and left to become a useless pile of plastic.
Ray sees this while sitting in Toby’s room in a scene that will bring tears to the eyes of even jaded readers. That throat-punch reminder of broken promises resonates. It hurts to be reminded that we, as parents and the sworn protectors of the little souls in our homes, too often fail them in minor ways.
But Ray’s sadness is lessened when a mysterious old man who resides in a vacated structure along the sea’s shore appears and begins repairing those broken toys. As he mends the small items that brought young Toby so much joy in his life he’s also somehow allowing Ray to somehow accept his son’s death and recognize the time he had with him as a gift.
To say too much more will spoil the book but if you’re a parent you need this book not only for the gorgeous passages and thought-provoking views but for a little nudge and reminder of how precious our children truly are.
Lebbon is an author who led the charge when Leisure was in its prime. He possesses a rare ability to force readers to look inward, not always outward, for the scariest things in the world. While we may not like what Lebbon is showing us – I’ll admit I wasn’t too happy with him during some of the book – there’s no denying the man knows his stuff.
The Thief of Broken Times is an easy read with its 146 pages but not an easy mirror for parents to gaze into. Regardless, seek it out and let it steal some of your time. You won’t regret it.