I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour today, for Dyed Souls by Gary Santorella. Many thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for including me as a reviewer.
Dyed Souls is set in California during the 1980s, at a residential treatment centre for troubled young people. In the acknowledgment at the front of the book, the author says that he hopes that he has done justice to the hundreds of kids he’s worked with over the years. I think he has done this and more with Dyed Souls, which centres on an extremely intelligent, but vulnerable young teenager, called Charles Lyle.
We start Charles’ story in a worrying and volatile way, in a car with his ominously threatening young mother, on their way to somewhere, at this point, known only as the ‘Cottage’. The chapter titles throughout are metaphors for the content of that part of the story, and I really loved this device. The first chapter is entitled ‘Great White’ and relates to Charles’ relationship with his mum.
Charles finds himself dumped back at Hawthorne Residential Treatment Village, earlier than expected, as a result of some event, unknown to the reader, which occurred while he was on a weekend visit home.
I felt so angry with Charles’ mother, and the emotional abuse she seemed to layer upon her son; this thoughtful and intelligent, but broken boy. The treatment centre is full of children who have without doubt suffered at the hands of their significant adults, sexually, emotionally, or from being in violent or neglectful homes. The home is not run deliberately to exacerbate these children’s problems, but the disciplinary and counselling protocols, do not, in the main, serve to address the basic issue facing these children, which is to be able to trust in adults, when their own parents have failed them so badly. Only two or three of the staff are good enough to earn very basic trust. The childlike instinct to protect their parents is also a major barrier to their recovery, and this is particularly applicable to Charles.
The author uses Charles’ first-person perspective to tell this story, and so for me, there was going to be the question, under the circumstances, of whether this account would be reliable. The writing is accomplished and flowed very well. The characters are vividly drawn; the over-sexualised, but resilient Margo, Walter, with his unique verbalisations, Paula, Shorty, Javier, and Charles’ grandfather. It is a gritty and disturbing story, made softer by Charles’ usually gentle voice.
Charles spends most of his time reading, when he is not sneaking about, and his account is embellished with his interpretations of (amongst others) Charles Darwin’s Descent of Man, while he searches it for explanations of his own circumstances. Darwin describes how sympathetic kindness amongst tribe members led to reciprocal good feeling and became habit forming, and natural selection would favour those communities with the highest level of sympathy, encouraging a greater number of offspring. Charles reasons this through in relation to his mother.
“Maybe some people don’t put much stock in the importance of kindness. Or maybe they have learned how to take advantage of people’s feelings of sympathy, so they can better their own chance of survival. But with my mom, I’m not sure what advantage she’d be gaining, other than making it easier for her to do what she wants, which, as far as I can tell, doesn’t help her much at all.”
Dyed Souls deals with the complexity of child and adolescent mental health services in western society, and encourages us to sympathise greatly with those who have to leave treatment centres like Hawthorne at 18 years old, when their support network on the outside is non-existent, and their coping mechanisms may be still too deeply affected by the events of their pasts. It begs the questions, what are we all going to do about this? Is our sympathy strong enough to build a better future for our children?
It is a coming of age story, a discussion about whether it is possible for children with harmful relationships with their parents to reason through the instinct to protect and be able to approach adulthood with greater perspective. The end of the penultimate chapter seems almost inevitable, given the events leading up to it, and the final chapter wraps up in a bittersweet way.
I really enjoyed Dyed Souls. It had the examination of the experience of an individual which makes it fascinating in a literary and philosophical sense, but also is a great YA fiction too.
Be aware; Sexual abuse (implied), emotional abuse, occasional use of medication to control behaviour, incident of animal cruelty, use of multiple swear words.
Dyed Souls has won two awards:
Silver in the 2018 Global eBook Awards – Young Adult Fiction Category
Chill With a Book Readers Award.
Author Profile: Gary Santorella
Gary Santorella, Owner, Interactive Consulting is a Lean implementation, organizational development, conflict resolution, and team-building specialist. He has a BA in Behavioural Psychology from Providence College, Providence, RI (1980), a Master’s Degree in Occupational Social Welfare from UC Berkeley (1990), and is a licensed cognitive-behavioural therapist in the State of California. His book: Lean Culture for the Construction Industry: Building Responsible & Committed Project Teams 2nd Edition was published by Productivity Press (a division of Taylor & Francis) in 2017. His first novel, Dyed Souls, was published by Matador Publishing in 2018.
Very importantly, this is a blog tour, and there are many other unique and wonderful perspectives on Dyed Souls for you to read, and I urge you to do so! The tour dates and the other bloggers involved are here:
Purchase Links –
Troubadour – https://www.troubador.co.uk/bookshop/contemporary/dyed-souls/
UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dyed-Souls-Gary-Santorella/dp/1788038096
US – https://www.amazon.com/Dyed-Souls-Gary-Santorella/dp/1788038096