Book Review: Demon Slayer Volume 18 by Koyoharu Gotouge

Book Review: Demon Slayer Volume 18 by Koyoharu Gotouge

Spoiler Free Summary: Demon Slayer Volume 18 by Koyoharu Gotouge is the eighteenth volume in the Demon Slayer manga. The fights just keep coming. Doma and Shinobu are still going at it, Tanjiro takes center stage as he and Giyu face off against none other than Akaza, the very demon who killed Rengoku. To beat Akaza, Tanjiro will have unlock a new ability.

Character: Shinobu steals the show here. Tanjiro’s story is more worldbuilding than character building. We also learn more about Akaza (if I remember right). What’s nice is the back stories don’t interrupt the fights. Sure, we see the flashbacks common in any mana, but they are brief as opposed to half the volume. These volumes allow us to learn more about the hashira, and the stories are worth it.

Exposition: Maybe there is some exposition hidden in the dialogue, but there’s not too much to notice. Sure, we get a flashback that teaches us a new technique (you should read this volume for that part alone), but the story moves at a blinding pace, which is probably the strength of this series.

Worldbuilding: So this volume expands on new techniques. What happens in manga is not surprising. There’s no secret to manga. Main character fights new, stronger bad guy. Main character must unlock a new technique. So the art isn’t in the surprise of the new move, but in how the new move is revealed and helps the hero win. This manga does it well. It also expands on the overall magic system. To be clear, there is no “magic” per say. I use this term describe the fighting styles and techniques which are (obviously) unrealistic, but cool to see.

Dialogue: Despite the common hero/villain banter I’ve discussed in other reviews for this series, the dialogue is pretty steady. While it’s true that it’s a bit campy, it’s pretty much what one would expect from a manga like this. It gives me plenty of chuckles and witty phrases. So it’s not a lesson in how to write natural dialogue, but it is fun.

Description: So the art depicts the new technique in a great way, and that’s cool. The real distinction of manga is that it uses the art to fill in the gaps writing just couldn’t fill. Writers use fight scenes as more highlight reels because reading every punch and attack would actually get pretty boring. Making those fights visual removes that concern. When you add the techniques unique to this manga, it just gets better.

Overall: This volume just continues the the heart-attack worthy pace of the last volumes. This volume is actually pretty extreme emotional roller coaster. The action is non-stop, and it’s simply impossible to put down.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

The 2021 M.L.S. Weech July Book Cover of the Month Poll Is Live! Vote for the First Week of August.

The 2021 M.L.S. Weech July Book Cover of the Month Poll Is Live! Vote for the First Week of August.

Greetings all,

The 2021 July M.L.S. Weech Book Cover of the Month Week Four poll has wrapped up. We’re ready to start August, but we also need an overall winner for the month of July, and I’d like your help.

So the Week 4 winner is …

A Desert Torn Asunder by Bradleuy P. Beaulieu was actually knee-deep in a three way tie until a helpful voter came and saved the day. I can see why. That use of color and detail is amazing.

Desert rounds out our Final Four (Sorry Suns! Get ’em next year). You can vote for the 2021 M.L.S. Weech July Book Cover of the Month right here. August is up and running as well, and you can vote for Week 1’s cover right here.

I’d be much obliged if you’d check out my YouTube channel, where I talk about these covers and what I like about them. It’d mean a lot if you subscribed and clicked that bell notification. It’s a free way to support me.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 39

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 39

PT1 // PT 2 // PT 3 // PT 4 // PT 5 // PT 6 // PT 7 // PT 8 // PT 9 // PT 10 // PT 11 // PT 12 // PT 13 // PT 14 // PT 15 // PT 16 // PT 17 // PT 18 // PT 19 // PT 20 // PT 21 // PT 22 // PT 23 // PT 24 // PT 25 // PT 26 // PT 27 // PT 28 // PT 29 // PT 30 // PT 31 // PT 32 // PT 33 // PT 34 // PT 35 // PT 36 // PT 37 // PT 38 //

A tiny part of Paul resented everyone, even his mother, for simply being able to move on. Why was it so hard to let go? More importantly, why was it so easy for everyone else to let go? Didn’t they love Bill? 

Paul realized the principal was about to call Jordan’s name. He scanned the other graduates as he waited.

“Jordan Bieliel,” the principal said. 

Jordan stood just as Paul found him. Paul offered a loud shout that he hoped conveyed that he was happy for his friend even if he wasn’t actually happy in general. 

“Jordan has been accepted into the applied physics program at Carnegie in Pittsburgh.” 

A smile bloomed on Paul’s face even as Jordan pointed at him and smiled. The smile seemed to say, “We’re still a team!”

Paul always worried that they’d drift apart. It was still a dirty trick to keep it a secret until graduation. Jordan had implied that he hadn’t had a lot of luck with the application process. Paul clapped for a few blissful seconds until he thought how everything was almost perfect.  

Was there a reality where Bill was alive? Paul was going to study at one of the top schools in the country. His best friend was going with him. They were decorated students. The single omission of Bill being there to see it seemed to make the absence even worse. Would he really feel better if none of it happened? 

Paul tried to be happy for his friend, and he could sort of do that. But every time he tried to be happy about anything he had in his life, his thoughts returned to the person who wasn’t there. That made him worry about losing Jordan, or worse, his mother. 

He couldn’t stop the mental loop he was trapped in. But what eventually ended was the list of students. The final student made his way across the stage, and that was the signal for the rest of the students to stand up. The class began to file into a large square section of the football field that had been designated for the final part of the ceremony. The students arranged themselves into rows as the school’s junior varsity band played Pomp and Circumstance. 

The song reached a crescendo, and the graduates, including Paul, snatched their caps and tossed them into the air. The PID on Paul’s wrist went crazy in vibration as people in attendance snapped photos that instantly transmitted to each other so long as the network identified who was in the picture. 

The moment marked the end of the ceremony, and Paul began the search for his best friend. As usual, Jordan found him. Jordan didn’t grow up so much as put on enough weight to ensure a stiff breeze probably would’t blast him away. 

Paul, however, grew into a large, square man that seemed an odd contrast to his academic performance. While his genetics made him one suited to physicality, Paul denied the hints about joining sports. Those things were too much like Paul’s biological father, and Paul didn’t want to be anything like that man.

So why can’t I let go of this anger? Anger and fear were the two key aspect of his biological father, and they were Paul’s core emotions too if he was being honest. 

The anger in Paul’s heart wasn’t always about the same thing, but there was always anger. Even as Paul recognized the irrationality of it, he couldn’t do a thing to change it. What he could do was sort of hide it under other things, usually. One such way was to spend time around his mother or Jordan, who smiled as he flung his arms around Paul.

“Had trouble with applications, huh?” Paul said as the quick, two-pat hug ended.

“It’s not a lie,” Jordan said. “Those applications were tough! I honestly think I got in because I put you as a reference. I feel sort of guilty riding your coat tails.”

Paul scoffed. “It’s not like you’re not helping. I told them how much you helped me during my interview.”

Jordan shrugged. “I guess I owe you.”

Paul froze, worried Jordan would ask about when they’d start working not he project again. He couldn’t. He couldn’t face those white boards. He couldn’t sit at that table. He couldn’t talk about it.

“So I was wondering.” Jordan looked away as he spoke. Oh no! Don’t ask! Please don’t make me think about it! “I know you’re super self conscious about things like this, but … “

Paul felt the anger and resentment building. Why would Jordan do this? Why would he ask about this now?

“Do you think I could take you and your mom out to dinner? I just want to hang out, and it’s been a while. Why are you laughing?”

Paul couldn’t stop to answer for a few moments. He wasn’t going to ask about the project. He was just trying to hang out. Of course he wouldn’t push Paul. Jordan always knew how to shift the topic. 

“Look man, you hate it when people try to do things for you,” Jordan said. “But dude, you helped me get through school, and you helped me get into a great college.”

“You were in the top ten of our class!” Paul said. 

“Because you helped me,” Jordan said. 

“We studied together, but it’s not like I took the tests for you or did your work for you,” Paul replied.

“True, but let me treat you and your mom, OK? Tonight?”

Paul thought about finding a polite way to say no. He had another appointment. Then he thought better of it. It was already clear Nobody always knew where to go, so it didn’t matter what Paul did. If Nobody said he’d appear tonight, it would happen.

“I think Mom would like that,” Paul said with a smile he hoped looked genuine. 

… to be continued …

Marketing Journal: Small Steps Toward The Goal

Marketing Journal: Small Steps Toward The Goal

Greetings all,

I figured now would be a good time to do another Marketing Journal.

I used to think marketing was a set and forget process that was instantaneous. You paid for an add; people saw it, and the money would start falling from the sky.

I was misguided.

Since September of 2020, I’ve been working to address that. You can review older posts to see the play-by-play, but the important part is I did indeed improve my sales, but my costs are still higher than those sales. So naturally I started working to balance them out.

In May of 2021, things got pretty dark. I sold three books that month. But there needs to be context, and there’s more to see.

While my sales were lower than they’d been in a long time, I’d reduced my cost, and that’s progress. In fact, my cost is steadily going down, and my sales are steadily going up. This is super encouraging because that was the plan going forward.

Sure, I want to have a great Average Cost of Sales now and earn money every month, but it’s not a sprint.

Also, May maybe wasn’t the great month for full sales, but it wasn’t without traction. You see, I had 957 pages read. Sure, some may scoff and say that’s only about $4, but it’s something. Then we hit June and July.

My cost went down even further for my June bill, and July posted a bill of less than $100!

As for sales, well, June brought me back to within my quote of 8 books a month (I actually sold 9), and I’ve sold 11 in July so far. If this trend holds, I’ve brought my cost down in half and regained my average sales per month from before I started working to bring those excessively high cost per click key words.

I had 1,320 pages read in June and 3,291 pages read in July.

This is encouraging to say the least, and it indicates that the plan is working. The trick is to keep moving forward and not get impatient. I won’t be ready to reset my quota for another month (I always get a three month average), and there’s still about 10 days in July, so I might have a few more sales! (You know you can help with that part, right?)

It’s still my dream for this series to become the “How I Became Profitable” series as opposed to the, “This is what I’m trying,” but that’s all time, patience and (of course) God’s will. Next year, we plan to go back to conventions, and hopefully that will have a positive impact as well.

I’m going to keep working, and I appreciate you all stopping by to see how things are going.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Demon Slayer Volume 17 by Koyoharu Gotouge

Book Review: Demon Slayer Volume 17 by Koyoharu Gotouge

Spoiler Free Summary: Demon Slayer Volume 17 by Koyoharu Gotouge is the seventeenth volume in the Demon Slayer manga. This is pretty simple to understand. That fight we’ve been waiting 16 volumes for. Here it is. Upper Ranks vs the Hashira. It’s a freaking royal rumble and the awesomeness, heartbreak, and joy are just starting. It starts of with a (literal) bang, and before you know it, we’re in Infinity Castle. First two big names is Shinobu vs Doma, Upper Rank 2, and another recently promoted upper rank faces off against Zenitsu.

Character: Just when I think the main cast is as rounded out as they can be, we see a side of Zenitsu we’d never imagined. Not only are these fights awesome, they reveal parts of these characters we didn’t know. I’ll probably do a character arc study on Zenitsu after this. His story is icing on a cake though. If you haven’t read these yet, wait another few weeks for the next (and what I assume will be the last) Demon Slayer volume. Then read them all at once. You’ll thank me later.

Exposition: Nope. No time for that nonsense. Sit tight, and hold on! I don’t remember a bit of exposition here.

Worldbuilding: We learn a bit more about how the big bad has adjusted to his latest losses, and we honestly start to get a picture for just how much stronger in magnitude one upper rank is from the previous. It’s not much in expanding the world, but it does expand on the hierarchy and lore of the bad guys.

Dialogue: Well, ok, so the 1980s cartoon banter is back, but I don’t care. While that is part of it, there’s another conversation (see above) that is so powerful. I didn’t mind the corny throwback stuff anyway, but this conversation I’m referring to makes it so worth it.

Description: We se way more of Infinity Castle and the fights are so stunning. There’s no way this final battle isn’t done as an epic movie. Heck, each fight could be an epic movie and I’d watch (but I’d rather not wait three years for each fight).

Overall: While the last volume was a bit of a letdown for me, this volume gave me everything I wanted and more. These fights probably aren’t as epic as a few before (and one to come), but they’re up there. If you’ve read this volume, feel free to tell me how these two fights rank against the rest of the series for you. No, they aren’t my favorites, but they’re in my top ten. Before you get all angry at me, I’m pretty sure each future volume has between one to two fights, and they’re all epic. I imagine I’ll have to do a top ten once I finish these reviews. Just trust me. Buy volumes 17-22; sit down, and enjoy!

Thanks for reading,

Matt

The 2021 July Book Cover of the Month Week 4 is Underway! Announcing Week 3’s Winner!

The 2021 July Book Cover of the Month Week 4 is Underway! Announcing Week 3’s Winner!

Greetings all,

While my blog had been quiet the last few weeks, my YouTub channel (which I’d be grateful if you subscribed to) was still running the 2021 July M.L.S. Weech Book Cover of the Month polls. Rather than try to catch you up one at a time, I’m just going to move forward (you’ll see all the current July nominees at the bottom).

So the Week 3 winner is …

The Return of the Sorceress by Silvia Moreno-Garcia was a beautiful cover all around. It had great light, detail, and color.

That means it’s Return against Song of the Forever Rains, Bloodless Secrets, and next week’s winner for the title of 2021 M.L.S. Weech July Book Cover of the Month. You can vote for Week 4’s cover here.

I’d be much obliged if you’d check out my YouTube channel, where I talk about these covers and what I like about them. It’d mean a lot if you subscribed and clicked that bell notification. It’s a free way to support me.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 38

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 38

PT1 // PT 2 // PT 3 // PT 4 // PT 5 // PT 6 // PT 7 // PT 8 // PT 9 // PT 10 // PT 11 // PT 12 // PT 13 // PT 14 // PT 15 // PT 16 // PT 17 // PT 18 // PT 19 // PT 20 // PT 21 // PT 22 // PT 23 // PT 24 // PT 25 // PT 26 // PT 27 // PT 28 // PT 29 // PT 30 // PT 31 // PT 32 // PT 33 // PT 34 // PT 35 // PT 36 // PT 37 //

Twelve

May 11, 2029, 6:16 p.m. 

18 Years, 243 Days Ago

The principle called names as Paul waited to hear his. Even if Paul weren’t close to the top of his class, he’d still hear his name quickly since his last name began with the letter a. 

Sure enough the principle called out, “Paul Autumn,” which allowed Paul to stand and walk down the grass isle between folding chairs and up to the stage that had been set up on his high school’s football field. 

The crowd clapped politely. Of course, a few people shouted. 

“All right, Paul!” That would be Jordan.

“I’m so proud of you!” And there was his mother.

Paul fought down a smile as he climbed up the wooden steps and started shaking hands. All the big wigs of the staff were up there. Paul eventually made his way to the principal, who handed him his diploma. That was more a formality these days. In reality, his credits and qualifications were already digitally sent to Carnegie in Pittsburgh. 

Paul wasn’t sure why they were still interested in him. He hadn’t worked on the project in more than a year. Every time he thought about it, he thought about Bill. He could study without the sadness hurting him so much. He’d even had a few ideas bounce around in his mind, but if he came anywhere near those white boards, all he could think about was the life he was supposed to have and was denied.

Paul plastered a fake smile on his face and turned to the person with a ComPad. The man snapped a photo, and Paul immediately felt his PID, personal information device, vibrate. These days, everyone had one. These functioned as watches, phones, and Blue Tooth connections to other devices with more space. 

Paul made his way back down the stairs and to his original seat to watch the rest of the graduation. He looked down at the red certificate folder. On a whim, he opened it. He expected to see the fancy lettering giving his school name and his own name. The folded piece of paper that rested on top of the protective plastic sheet was what caught his eye. 

A flame of anger seemed to blossom from Paul’s gut. Of course. It would be too much to hope that Nobody was gone for good. Paul waited for more than a year to face the man, but of course he was too much of a coward. So here was another note.

Paul opened it if for no other reason than to consider ways to refute Nobody’s claims. “Pain eventually fades, unless one refuses to go through it. Don’t worry, you will see me tonight.”

Paul felt a different sort of smile form on his face. Finally! He was going to be able to look Nobody straight in that mask and tell him everything he wanted. Paul turned around and eventually found his mother sitting in the bleachers. She wore a simple blue pull-over dress. She’d stopped crying after a year, but she was still alone. She seemed OK, but she shouldn’t be OK, she should be deviously happy, and Bill should be next to her. 

She noticed Paul looking and gave a cheesy grin and thumbs up.  Paul shook his head. Over the past year, he’d been concerned that she’d start hounding him about religion. True, she was different, and some of the rules of the house changed, but the changes in her life were so like what Bill would do that Paul couldn’t bring himself to resent her for it. 

So why am I the one who’s acting like he forgot Bill? 

Maybe his mom felt better remembering and doing things that he would do. Paul just felt pain and anger. 

Back From Vacation With A 5-Star Review to Share!

Back From Vacation With A 5-Star Review to Share!

Greetings all,

I know it’s been a few weeks. As my vacation got more fun, I decided to take it easy more and more. Of course I’m motivated to get back at it, and I’m happy to be sharing with you all again, but it was nice being with family and focusing on that for a bit.

Not only is it good to be back, but I was happy to see a new review for Bob Drifter, and that means I have the honor of sharing that with you now. You can read that review here.

Discovered is coming along pretty well. I’m about six or so chapters from being done. I’ll have some things to clean up in this draft, but I’m confident that this first pass is laying all the necessary groundwork for a great finish to the Oneiros Log.

Thanks for your patience, and thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Demon Slayer Volume 16 by Koyoharu Gotouge

Spoiler Free Summary: Demon Slayer Volume 16 by Koyoharu Gotouge is the sixteenth volume in the Demon Slayer manga. Tanjiro is training to become a Hashira, but that means training with several others, one of whom is Himejima, the Stone Hashira, whose tasks seem every bit as impossible as they are rediculous, but is ther ea method to the madness?

Character: This is (what I think of as) the last training volume before the big (BIG) fight. The training is comically ridiculous, and it’s fun to see the characters interact. With the main characters already developed (as far as character goes), it’s nice to see some of the other characters.

Exposition: This manga (and a few others in the later books) is probably heavier on exposition than th rest of the series as a whole. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s to an annoying degree, but it was certainly noticeable. On one hand, it’s nice that we don’t have volume after volume of back story (I actually like that), but on the other hand, the sudden exponential jump in exposition jarred me a little.

Worldbuilding: This confused me a bit. I thought one became a Hashira the moment they killed on of the upper twelve and the training isn’t really anything truly unique, just extreme. I guess one could say it was unique in how extreme it is, but I’ll admit it was a bit of a double disappointment. I expected the training, but I wish it had more content value than comedic.

Dialogue: Where the exposition and worldbuilding probably left a lot to be desired (in comparison to the other volumes), this is probably improved if not as drastically as the others shifted. The conversations are a bit more natural than normal.

Description: The art is wonderful as always. It was nice seeing more of (what I call) the training complex. So we get to see more of the landscape and world, which is nice.

Overall: This is a pretty amusing training volume that sets everything up, but I do think that it failed to meet its potential. Yes, it was fun to read and watch the characters get physically stronger, but I think this had more potential to have more depth than it did. Maybe it was too loyal to the pattern. However, it was still good to read and didn’t frustrate or annoy me. So though it could have been so much better, it wasn’t exactly bad.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 37

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 37

PT1 // PT 2 // PT 3 // PT 4 // PT 5 // PT 6 // PT 7 // PT 8 // PT 9 // PT 10 // PT 11 // PT 12 // PT 13 // PT 14 // PT 15 // PT 16 // PT 17 // PT 18 // PT 19 // PT 20 // PT 21 // PT 22 // PT 23 // PT 24 // PT 25 // PT 26 // PT 27 // PT 28 // PT 29 // PT 30 // PT 31 // PT 32 // PT 33 // PT 34 // PT 35 // PT 36 //

The strange square-shaped box composed of pebbles suddenly made sense to Paul. It had to be some sort of water container. His mother left the podium and went into a room behind the stage as the pastor came back out wearing a long white robe. 

He carefully stepped into the tub while someone rushed on stage and set up another microphone. 

“I agreed with Mary that this idea would be the best way to honor not only our Lord God, but also the memory of our dear friend Bill, who we all loved so fiercely,” the pastor, Paul supposed his name was Gabe, said. 

“I was very careful to talk to Mary about this,” Gabe said. “It would be easy to understand someone’s desire to share something with a lost loved one. It would be easy to hear someone talk about God just after losing said loved one. What I should have known was that Bill had been speaking with Mary and sharing the gospel for months. It would be wrong to falsely baptize anyone, but after hearing her testimony and speaking with her several times, I trust her judgement.”

Gabe took a breath. It was obvious he was stalling to give Paul’s mom time to change every bit as much as he was using the opportunity to talk more about God. “Baptism is an ordinance. It does not prove or establish salvation. It’s a gesture to reflect rebirth in Christ. Neither will it wash away the sadness we all feel at the loss we suffered. I know I certainly wish it would, but that’s not the case. We all must feel our grief and mourn with those who mourn. But I find a small bit of comfort in this. Mary is living proof that Bill’s work was always for Christ, and she’s a new bond we have in our lives and, in a way, with Bill. It doesn’t make the pain go away, but it does ease it a little for me.”

Paul hadn’t wanted to punch someone so much in months. Was this guy seriously using Bill’s death to advance his religious goals and pad his congregation’s numbers? Were they seriously going to just give a thirty-minute sermon and then move on with business as usual? Paul wasn’t even sure what kept him in his chair. Maybe he was trying to avoid the scene it would cause if he stormed out, but he wasn’t sure. 

His mother came back out wearing the same kind of white robe Gabe wore. She stepped into the water and smiled. She crossed her arms in front of herself, and Gabe placed on hand on hers and another hand on her back. 

“Mary, have you confessed and repented of your sins?” Gabe asked.

“I have.”

“Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your savior, dedicating yourself to serving him?”

“I do.”

Paul gritted his teeth. She was supposed to say those words during a wedding with Bill, not in some stupid ceremony. 

“Then, based on your testimony today I proudly baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” 

Paul’s mother leaned back, and Gabe held her in the water for a moment.

“Washed clean by the blood of Christ.” Gabe pulled her back up. “And justified by Christ’s resurrection from the dead.”

Again the people launched in to a celebration. It’s like they’d completely forgotten this was a funeral. Bill was dead, and all they cared about was some stupid ceremony. Paul stood in stunned silence wondering at how crass it all was. His mother climbed out of the water and headed into the back room. 

Several people smiled at Paul. One person reached out a hand, maybe to shake it or place it on Paul’s shoulder, but whatever look Paul gave him made him pause and pull his hand back. Good! Paul didn’t want anyone thinking he was anything but angry. This wasn’t some pointless anger. Someone was dead, and everybody just moved on with life as if that death didn’t matter. 

He stormed out of the main room and into the lobby. He sat there stewing until his mother came out. She looked at him, a sad smile on her face. 

“Let’s go,” she said. 

Paul followed her to the car and got in. She got behind the wheel and buckled the belt across her shoulders and waist. 

She took a deep breath. “I’m going to ask you to listen.”

She waited. Paul stared out the window. She could say whatever she wanted. 

“I know how angry you are.”

That was obvious. It wasn’t like Paul ever hid his emotions well.

“I didn’t forget about Bill, and neither did anyone else in there.” She waited, probably wondering if Paul would argue, but he’d already decided to just let her have her say. “When Bill and I talked about … “ she paused, clearly trying not to cry. 

Paul was even more determined to stare out the window. He wasn’t about to watch her cry. Besides, didn’t she just get baptized? Didn’t that make life all better and happy? 

“When we talked about the future, I had thought I’d wait until the wedding.”

A tear fell down Paul’s cheek. For some reason, those words caused every memory Paul had of Bill to play through his mind, and each one hurt more than the one before it. 

“I’m still sad.” The tremble in her voice made that obvious. “I still miss him. I’m even still angry that he’s gone. I don’t have the answers I know you want. I don’t know why God took him now.”

Paul squeezed the handle of his passenger door. 

“I don’t know why God would put him in our life only to take him from us this soon. But I trust Bill, and I trust God. I trust the God who gave him to us in the first place.”

“You wanna know why?” Paul muttered.

“I’m sure you have some sufficiently witty and smart remark to make,” his mother said. “I’m sure it’s full of anger and resentment. But before you say that, just ask yourself if you really want to lash out at me right now?”

“So I’m supposed to just sit here and listen to, like, the third sermon in as many hours? I don’t get any say?”

Paul finally looked at her. Naturally, there were tears in his eyes and on her face. He cared less and less by the second. “You think if you talk long enough I’ll just suddenly realize that you all were right, and we should just happily flock to a God who would let this sort of thing happen?”

“No,” she said. “I just wanted you to know that I’m still sad and angry, too.”

“Well you’ve said it,” Paul said. “Can we go now?”

He did have several more things to say. Those church people and his mom may have some misguided idillic vision of some wonderful God, but Paul just had an empty chair where the man who could have been his father was supposed to be sitting. If Bill wasn’t going to sit there, no one would.”