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Book Review: The Exorcism of Little Billy Wagner by Francis J. Flynn

Janus Publishing Company Ltd
[Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from Booktasters (check them out their website and Twitter) and the author for a fair and honest review. All of my thoughts, opinions, and ramblings are my own]

Book: The Exorcism of Little Billy Wagner
Author: Francis J. Flynn
Genre: Fiction
Subgenre: Satire, horror

My Review and Thoughts: In Francis J. Flynn's humorous and witty satirical novel, The Exorcism of Little Billy Wagner, the Devil is alive and well- and this modern world of sin and texting is diverting our attention away from the presence of the Prince of Darkness. At least it is, according to the Archbishop presiding over Gateway City, MO where Saint Anthony's parish is located. After an incident of the Archbishop witnessing a teenage boy texting during the homily he was saying (an incident that would be hereby be known by the Archbishop's colleagues and followers as "L'Affaire Texting"), his resolve to face that evil head on as a way for people to understand the evils the modern world has brought upon it while we're all too distracted with our electronic devices.

His opportunity comes in the form of (not so) little Billy Wagner, a rather large twelve year old boy, whose parents, Mary and Bill Wagner, are desperate for help from the Catholic Church. Little Billy has caused disturbance after disturbance at his school (the book begins with "the knife incident), and now he won't leave his room, just growing gaunt and playing video games all day. Not to mention his rage, speaking in tongues, drawing pentagrams on his walls, and superhuman strength. The Archbishop sees this as a golden opportunity to warn the world that Satan is upon us. What better way to show the world that the evil must be fought by exorcising a supposed demonically possessed tween boy?

From there the Archbishop assigns various priests to investigate and assess little Billy Wagner, but it all eventually falls on Father Leo, a young, level-headed, and likable priest, who is determined to see if Little Billy is indeed demonically possessed or just a spoiled, entitled modern twelve year old on too many ADHD pills. But the bureaucracy and zeal of the Catholic Church gets in the way and with a growing list of colorful Church clergyman, a religious medical "expert," Saint Anthony's parish's overworked Hispanic landscaper/line cook/artist/jack of all trades, and a Wiccan stripper thrown into the mix, the exorcism (and book, in general) comes to a climactic boiling point that no one could anticipate or expect (least of all the reader!).

Flynn write a sharp, hilarious satire that not only makes us laugh at the bureaucracy, chain of command, and fanaticism of the Catholic Church (which is only too familiar with people who have grown up in the Church), but also humanizes what could have been cartoon-ish caricatures of the characters of the book. While we still scoff and chuckle at the ridiculousness of some of the thoughts and actions of the characters, we do feel for them, like Mary Wagner (worried about her son and if she made him this way, by ignoring him and watching too many of her Lifetime-esque based on a true story TV movies) and especially the unsung hero and scapegoat, Father Leo. Struggling with his growing feelings for the beguiling Veronica, a woman he met in the religious conversion class he was teaching, and missing the small parish in Bolivia, where he truly felt he was doing God's work by helping the people there, his confusion and sadness feels real and true, despite all of the amusing absurdity surrounding the multiple characters and story-lines.

Flynn's writing style is quick and witty with gems of wry, humorous one-liners, quips, and back stories that fill page after page. While some of said back stories may go on for longer than necessary and tend to get dull at times, it's quite remarkable that Flynn is able to fit so many different character's thoughts, perspectives, and information into one 200 plus page book. But the overall humor and surprising amount of emotion involved in this novel makes this a surprising and impressive read.

Should You Read It: A horror novel this is not, so if that's what you want to read, you'll most likely be disappointed at the lack of gore, demonic entities, and seriously creepy moments. But if you like satirical novels, or like horror novels and just want to give satire about the genre a try, I would definitely recommend The Exorcism of Little Billy Wagner. I had never read a satirical novel before and I'm a big horror fan, so reading this one was the perfect introduction to the genre. Plus, as a big fan of The Exorcist and the whole exorcism/possession subject in general, this was a fantastic and funny take on a subject I love.


What did you think of my book review? Does the subject and style of book sound interesting to you? Have you read any satirical novels? Let me know in the comments!

Stay Weird,

Are you ready to ready to read about the exorcism of "little" Billy in this fun, satirical take on the horror genre? Pick up a copy and get reading!
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