Sunday 20 May 2012

Black Bottle Man

Black Bottle Man Black Bottle Man by Craig Russell (Great Plains Teen Fiction)
PB RRP US$14.99
ISBN 9781894283991
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Black Bottle Man is a superbly-crafted fable structured in a back and forth sequence, in smooth and seamlessly connecting chapters. This structure feeds the reader the background and story of each character in tiny, tasty morsels. It opens with Rembrandt, the main character, in the year 2007 when he is ninety years old and has only thirty days to live.

Rembrandt’s mother and Pa, and Pa’s married siblings, all live in separate houses but close together in the corner of a great piece of land known as Three Farms. Each family helps the other in every way. But Rembrandt is the only child between them. His aunts, Annie and Emma, and their husbands Uncle Billy and Uncle Thompson have shared his parenting, and he grows up surrounded by love and care.

But Annie and Emma long for a child of their own. That longing motivates them to write a letter to their family in the city for any sort of help they can seek out at any cost, that would enable them to have a child.

But the price demanded for something is always the last consideration when longing consumes all thought. On the day the parcel arrives in the mail containing a black bottle and directions, no one can imagine how high the cost will be. Five weeks later, the Black Bottle Man follows the package with his demands for payment. But neither Annie nor Emma will make the payment. Deception and secrets will rule from that day on. Two marriages are shattered. Lives end. But still the price is not paid.

Rembrandt, Pa and Uncle Thompson must find a champion to fight the devil and win in order to save their souls. But after a lifetime, and thirty days to live, Rembrandt has still to find a way to beat the devil.

Within this story, there is another sub-story that filters in and out, adding suspense and another dimension to the fable.

Gail, a teacher who is taken hostage with her class of young children, makes a decision that proves fatal. She withdraws from the world and becomes homeless as a way of punishing herself for the outcome.

This is a Canadian author of great talent. Black Bottle Man is imaginative and well-written with prose that is thoughtfully constructed. But it is the innuendo and the unsaid that magnetises the reader up to the last word.


  1. I first met Black Bottle Man as a piece of reader's theatre (and got to read the part of Old Rembrandt). I thought it was wonderful then, and even better as a novel.

  2. Hi Brent, You would have an extra insight into the story. Wonderful that Black Bottle Man's even better in this new format. Thanks for dropping by Buzz Words Books.


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