The name Nick Cutter is no stranger to any horror fan. A heavyweight horror writer with titles like The Troop, The Deep, and Little Heaven under his belt, any story with his name on it is bound to spill gore and viscera from its pages. Andrew F. Sullivan (Waste, the upcoming The Marigold) joins Cutter in THE HANDYMAN METHOD. If you are someone that cringes every time you pass a Home Depot or you don’t know a lug wrench from a monkey wrench, then you might be me. Then you may also really like this book.
In THE HANDYMAN METHOD, Trent, Rita, and their son Milo move into a brand-spanking new home in an up-and-coming development area called the Dunsany Estates. Sold the home by an overzealous real estate agent, Trent is excited to get started on making the home their own. Rita has a successful career and Trent is on medical leave after taking down a man with a hammer that came into his firm where he works with his wife and tried to play whack-a-mole with the employees. Overcome with the spirit of a new home, Trent leans into the macho, fix-it role spending thousands of dollars at his favorite hangout, Home Depot.
He gets work done around the house with the help of a new Youtube show called Handyman Hank. Hank’s content starts to get weirdly specific but Trent welcomes the assistance as he pulls further from his family. Milo has his own show called Little Boy Blue to keep him company and give him lots of ideas of things to build and invent. As the days and weeks go by, Rita starts to notice changes in her husband and son. Milo hides away in his room building or in the yard digging. Trent won’t stop finding new things to work on in the house in between his expensive visits to the hardware store. Trent also starts to get angrier and leans really hard into gender roles. On top of everything, it seems the house is sinking. What is going on with this shiny new house and was something already living in it before they arrived?
THE HANDYMAN METHOD is one hell of a roller coaster ride and I don’t just mean emotionally. I went from liking the book to hating it to loving it and the same goes for the characters. Trent Saban may have been one of the most unlikable characters that I ever had the chance to read about…mostly. I can’t really expand too much on his character arc without giving spoilers away but let me just say his unlikability is strategic, a move which I hated the first 75% of the book and then respected in the end. No one is as they seem in THE HANDYMAN METHOD and I was impressed by how well it was done.
While this book isn’t as disgusting as some of Nick Cutter’s books in the past, there were a couple of moments when I had to put the book down for a moment and readjust. It is not often that a book can make me queasy, but there is a scene in the book involving a basement drain that had me reassessing my life choices.
THE HANDYMAN METHOD is a sizable book at over 280 pages and the middle part of the book tends to be a bit of a slog. One of the hardest parts is just how unlikeable Trent is. I know I mentioned this before but my hate for him was so intense it bears repeating. He was the epitome of toxic masculinity and sexism and it only increased with each page I turned. While the choices in his personality traits were purposefully made, I can see where his character could turn some people off of the book entirely. Hell, I had to put it down a few times and walk away just so I could finish it and it had nothing to do with the gross factor.
That all being said, there are moments in this book that are so damn well-written. At times, the descriptions are so intricate and done with such flair and outstanding wordplay that I had to put the book down and re-read those parts out loud. The best descriptions weren’t even about anything tangible but about what the house was making the characters feel. If it was possible to imagine a feeling in your head, this book managed it with beautiful and often disturbing deftness.
Let me give you an example:
“The sheer inanity of the phrase…lit the fuse on the powder keg of TNT nestled in Trent’s chest – and, ooohh, how combustible that keg had become lately: beads of nitroglycerin sweated down its stave-joints, just itching to ignite.”
You can explain the emotions of a situation and then you can EXPLAIN it. This is just one example of how intricately Nick Cutter and Andrew F. Sullivan paint a picture of what is happening to the Saban family while leaving you feeling icky with a need to shower.
If I had to rate THE HANDYMAN METHOD, I would give it a 4 out of 5. There were times when reading the book felt more like a chore than a pleasure and I had to fight the swelling irritation and hatred that I felt for Trent, but once the ball finally gets to the top of the hill, it speeds down at a blistering pace and it doesn’t stop until the last page. If you find yourself trudging through the thick mud of this book, trust me and give it some time. It will be worth it in the end.
THE HANDYMAN METHOD is now available in stores.