Since finishing Serpent Box, a novel by Vincent Louis Carrella, a few hours ago I’ve not wanted to let it go. I’ve been letting the words and content wash through me trying to find a place for it to settle. I even went out and walked the land. Still it is yet to ground.
The novel takes place in the backcountry of Appalachia, in hidden pockets, during a time in the last century when the Ku Klux Klan held no fear for what they did. There’s a Tree of Life and Death, entrance to the Underworld, signs, visions, spirits and The Holy Ghost. There are plenty of Heroes, female and male. The central one being a Holiness Child following his daddy’s footsteps, a traveling preacher of a charismatic fundamentalist sect whose practices involve handling deadly snakes and drinking poison in praise of Jesus.
Serpent Box reads like a mythological story. It speaks of those things people carry deeply and hold true⏤no matter what⏤and a darker nature of humanity. It’s a Hero’s Journey of a different sort. And all the archetypal characters, forces and phases of the journey are present. Carrella uses words and visual imagery hypnotically. He leads the reader in…bit by bit…until suddenly you may find yourself entranced⏤as I was⏤equally as mesmerized by the content of the novel as were the characters caught up in the path they were drawn to follow.
I didn’t fully realize the book’s subject matter before being pulled from page to page. Somewhere in the back of my mind I remembered hearing of Pentecostal sects who handle snakes regularly in their worship. Although, the drinking of lye and strychnine was new to me. But I knew little. I would urge you not to do research prior to reading Serpent Box. Save that for later so it doesn’t get in the way of the story or some insight into the culture and its beliefs.
As far as I can tell, this debut novel published in 2009 is the only book Vincent Louis Carrella has authored. He says, “The book, which took me seven years to write, was inspired by a single photograph of a young boy holding a snake in a box. That photo changed my life, and serves as a reminder to me, not just on the power of photography and story-telling, but fragility and meaning of the human body.”
I’d vote he writes more novels. In the meantime follow his blog where each post uses a photo as entry for “essays, stories and poems that deal with nature of vision and human perception, the mystery and power of memory and the intersection of spirit with the realm of the physical world.”
Serpent Box is available in print and ebook via Amazon and elsewhere.