Breed by Chase Novak
Publisher:Mulholland/Sept. 4th, 2012
Kind thanks to Mulholland for providing a review copy
Alex and Leslie Twisden lead charmed lives-fabulous jobs, a luxurious town house on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, a passionate marriage. What they don’t have is a child, and as they try one infertility treatment after the next, yearning turns into obsession. As a last-ditch attempt to make their dream of parenthood come true, Alex and Leslie travel deep into Slovenia, where they submit to a painful and terrifying procedure that finally gives them what they so fervently desire . . . but with awful consequences.
Ten years later, cosseted and adored but living in a house of secrets, the twins Adam and Alice find themselves locked into their rooms every night, with sounds coming from their parents’ bedroom getting progressively louder, more violent, and more disturbing.
Driven to a desperate search for answers, Adam and Alice set out on a quest to learn the true nature of the man and woman who raised them. Their discovery will upend everything they thought they knew about their parents and will reveal a threat so horrible that it must be escaped, at any cost.
When Leslie meets Alex Twisden, it’s pretty much love at first site. 17 years her senior, Alex is everything Leslie wants in a man: successful lawyer, wants a family, and absolutely adores Leslie. Leslie is quite capable on her own, working for an up and coming children’s publisher, and quite frankly, she’d have married Alex if he was cab driver (or other such blue collar profession.) But he’s not, and they’re deliriously happy, comfortable in the luxury of Alex’s family brownstone, with portraits of his ancestors looking down on the hopeful lovebirds. Only one thing is missing from Alex and Leslie’s bliss: a baby. After countless fertility treatments, medical tests, and ultimately, numerous forms of quackery, “guaranteed” to increase fertility and give them the child they so desperately want, they turn to Dr. Kis, a supposed miracle worker in Slovenia. He is recommended by a neighbor and lawyer that, in exchange for information about the doctor that resulted in his wife’s pregnancy, demands to be given a job at Alex’s firm. Alex acquiesces, and learns about Dr. Kis, who supposedly performs miracles of fertility on his patients. When Alex pitches the idea to Leslie, she’s less than thrilled, having tired of the endless stress and strain put on their marriage by their efforts to conceive. She realizes how important this is to Alex, though, and agrees to go, after extracting a promise that this will be the last effort. So, the couple makes the journey to Slovenia, to the office of the strange, abrupt Dr. Kis, where a slavering pit bull stands guard, and where, little do they know, they’re about to undergo a very painful procedure. Said procedure surely achieves what Dr. Kris promised, but at what price? Turns out, it’s a big one. Huge. Soon the couple begins undergoing some terrifying changes, and by the time the twins are born (early), their lives have already become very different.
Cut to 10 years later: The Twisden house is in decline, falling to ruins, and twins Adam and Alice are kept to a very strict schedule. Dreaded are the nightly dinners where they watch their parents consume meat so rare that it’s blue and swimming in a puddle of blood (what Alex and Leslie call “gravy”). They are locked in their room on a nightly basis, and the noises that come from their parent’s room (of which Adam hears through a purloined baby monitor) are terrifying. The twins are loved, however, and Alex and Leslie haven’t harmed a hair on their heads…yet.
Adam is convinced that his parents are going to kill them, and is determined to take his sister and escape. He runs to a trusted teacher first, but his parents prove to be talented trackers, and he doesn’t remain hidden for long. Meanwhile, Alice has met a group of feral kids in Central Park that will reveal much more about their condition and what their parents may be becoming.
At first blush, Breed is pure horror, but it’s the author’s wry observations on elitist society and also Alex and Leslie’s slow loss of humanity that elevates this to something much more. Alex and Leslie adore their children, but cannot fight the changes taking place within them, and their struggle against those changes (in particular Leslie), is heartbreaking, and horrifying. The author turns the creep factor up to about 11, and it’s the first time in a while that after putting the book down, I may have been a little afraid of the dark for a few nights. By turns very scary, and heart wrenching, Breed will take you for a ride you’ll never forget, all the way to its shocking conclusion.