Get out your cleaning supplies and make sure there's a fire extinguisher close at hand, just in case we need them, as we continue with Chapters 7 and 8 of Dead Until Dark, by Charlaine Harris, which is the first book in the Sookie Stackhouse series. Please join me as I read (& react!) for the very first time to this highly praised novel.
Before we begin, a quick note on spoilers: There will be some (OK lots) - but only for the chapters actually covered in the post, and as we go on, the chapters that have been covered in previous weeks. I may also make comparisons between the chapters covered and all seasons of HBO's adaptation of the series, True Blood.
As far as the comment section, please join in!! I want to know what you think of my commentary, of the story itself, the characters, everything! But if you've read the series before, or read ahead in this book, please don't let anything slip about what's coming up next! Thanks in advance!
In case you missed them, here are the previous Read & React posts::
Part 1 - Chapters 1 & 2.
Part 2 - Chapters 3 & 4.
Part 3 - Chapters 5 & 6.
Now that all that's out of the way, straighten your tie, smooth your skirt, adjust your substantial hat, and let's get to the chapters!
The next night Sookie and Bill go to a movie, and then back to Bill's house. They lie in bed and Bill somehow gets Sookie to talk more about her childhood, and Uncle Bartlett, and the awful things Uncle Bartlett used to do to her when she was young. She had tried to tell her mother about the molestation, but her mother didn't believe that it was real, and she was too embarrassed to talk to her father about it.
"And the worst thing, Bill, the worst thing," I went on, just unable to stop, "is that every time he came to visit, I always knew what he was going to do because I could read his mind! And there wasn't anything I could do to stop it!"She explains that after her parents died, she told Gran, who remembered a similar complaint from another child in the family years before, and immediately promised Sookie that she would never have to see Uncle Bartlett again, ever. Gran cut her brother Bartlett completely out of her life just to protect Sookie, and even refused to let Bartlett ever see Jason, as she couldn't be sure that it was only little girls he was after.
Sookie falls asleep in Bill's arms, and wakes alone in the morning, and for the first time begins to see some of the flaws in their relationship.
"I would never see Bill in the sunlight. I would never fix his breakfast, never meet him for lunch...I could never have a child by Bill, which was nice at least when you thought of not having to practice birth control, but...I'd never call Bill at the office to ask him to stop on the way home for some milk. He'd never join the Rotary, or give a career speech at the high school, or coach Little League Baseball. He'd never go to church with me."She dresses and leaves Bill's house deep in thought, and is surprised to find Jason outside in his truck, waiting for her. He doesn't quite apologize, but does admit that he has no right to judge her after the things he's done, and then he tells her that Uncle Bartlett was killed during the previous night. The police believe a burglar broke into his house and pushed him down the stairs, breaking his neck and killing him.
"It wasn't till I got to work that it clicked. I was drying a glass and really not thinking about Uncle Bartlett, and suddenly my fingers lost all strength. "Jesus Christ, Shepherd of Judea," I said, looking down at the broken slivers of glass at my feet. "Bill had him killed."She finishes her shift in a daze, and then goes home and sits on the porch until Bill shows up after dark. She tells Bill that she can't have him meddling in her life without her permission, and that she needs some time apart from him. Bill understands, musing that the crisis arrived sooner than he expected.
Over the next week, Sookie begins trying to build a life without Bill in it. Uncle Bartlett left her some money in his will, which she donated to a mental health center for child victims of rape and molestation. She works on settling Gran's affairs. She takes vitamins and learns that the Malcolm, Diane, and Liam - the Psycho 3 - have been terrorizing the communities around Bon Temps, generally making a nuisance of themselves and thereby ensuring that anti-vampire feelings in the area rise from a simmer to a slow boil.
One night a work, the atmosphere in Merlotte's seems unusually tense, and Sookie lets down her guard and begins skimming thoughts. She hears that Mike the undertaker, and Rene Lenier are talking about burning the Psycho 3's nest over in Monroe, and as she wanders the room serving drinks and food, she realizes that they aren't the only ones thinking this. Everyone in the bar seems to have the same idea, but she can't seem to trace it back to the source.
A little while later Bill comes in with a young vampire named Harlen, who is traveling to New Orleans, and Bill introduces Harlen to Sookie, casually mentioning that Harlen is anxious to meet Malcolm, who is something of a legend. Sookie tells Bill to be careful, but doesn't want to say more in front of Harlen, and anyway she isn't even sure that the situation is severe enough to really worry. But after Bill and Harlen leave, the mob mentality in the bar dials up to High, but Sookie still can't figure out who's controlling the dial. Eventually everyone leaves and the bar closes. Sookie drives home, hoping that Bill will be waiting in her driveway, but he's not, so she calls him and leaves a message to call her no matter the time, and then goes to bed. He doesn't call her back.
The next morning the phone does ring, but it isn't Bill, it's Jason, telling her that the Monroe nest was burned just after sunrise, and that Jason hopes that "her" vampire wasn't there. She remembers that Bill was taking Harlen there, but doesn't know if he would've stayed, so she drives over and arrives at the smoldering house to find firemen crawling through the debris, and on the lawn are 4 coffins and 1 body bag. She looks in the coffins, but the bodies are unrecognizable. Suddenly Sam is beside her and tells her that the one in the body bag is human, and the fireman asks her to try to identify it, but is a young woman that she's never seen before. One of the other firemen cracks a joke about Southern Fried Vampires, and Sookie goes crazy on him, kicking and punching as Sam drags her away, sobbing with anger and fright, and crying that she won't even know if Bill was in one of the coffins until sundown.
Sam takes her home and keeps her mind off the tragedy by involving her in various cleaning projects all day long, until by evening she has the cleanest house in all of Renard Parrish. Just before sundown Sam notes that she probably wants to be alone now and leaves, and as soon as it's full dark Sookie sets out in the pouring rain, through the cemetery towards Bill's house, calling for him aloud as she doesn't know where he sleeps during the day. Bill hears her and emerges from the ground in the middle of the cemetery, and when she tells him what happened and how worried she been, he goes a little crazy with anger and grief. He's so close to losing control that she's afraid he might kill her without realizing, and she redirects his anger into sex, and they do it right there in the rain and mud. After, Bill carries her back to his house and bathes her while she tells him about her day, and he asks her if she can read Sam's mind. When she tells him no, he expresses his concern for her safety and tells her that if anything should ever happen to him, she should go to Sam. Then they have sex again.
So first things first, I take back everything bad I've ever said about Sam Merlotte, as he just completely redeemed himself in this chapter by caring for Sookie and keeping her sane and busy all day long. I love you Sam!!
Second, I'm surprised it took so long for the towns' folk to grab their torches and pitchforks and storm the castle! The Psycho 3 were not making life easy, for themselves or any other vampires (including Bill), and I would have thought that Shadow Man would have incited the burning a lot sooner than he (she?) did. Of course, that is also a huge assumption, as the person or persons who incited the burning might not be the same he/she/they that murdered Gran and the Fang-Bangers. But it would seem on the surface that they must be connected somehow.
I'm rather proud of our little Sookie for having the strength and courage to talk about her molestation to Bill, and also totally in favor of Bill taking out a hit on Uncle Bartlett. Good on ya', Bill!! However, I can see how that would totally put a damper on any future conversations. I mean, really, if I complain about my co-worker who marinates in perfume, am I going to show up at work one day to find that she took a header off the balcony? It would be difficult to know what was safe to say - thus resulting in Sookie's decision to put on the relationship brakes for a bit.
Harlen seemed like a cutie, so I think it's too bad that he had to die. I am glad however that the Psycho 3 are now Crispy Critters, as I was already annoyed with them and we've only seen them a few times.
And of course the chapter wouldn't have been complete without another bath, but after SexyTimes in the mud, at least it was warranted!
Bill and Sookie settle into an uneasy routine of spending time together. Bill is angry and frightened about the burning of the Monroe nest, and with good reason, as no matter how powerful and strong he is at night, during the day he's completely helpless, unable to protect either himself or Sookie.
The autopsy reports on all three murder victims are finally released and prove that all three women had all their blood at the time of death, and that in the cases of Dawn and Maudette, the fang marks were old, which points at a human murderer rather than a vampire one, and does nothing to set anyone's mind at ease. The women of Merlotte's become more cautious overall, locking doors that would not normally be locked, walking to their cars in groups, being more aware of their surroundings in general. But Sookie is the only one who lives alone, and such constant vigilance is hard to sustain over time.
Jason comes into the bar nearly every night, and always makes a point to chat with Sookie for a few moments, and she sees that he's trying to bridge the void between them. But she also sees that he's drinking more, and sleeping around more, and one night after too many beers he confides to her that the police have had him in for questioning several more times. He's worried enough that he's actually spoken to a lawyer, and when Sookie wonders why the police keep coming back to Jason, he tells her about the sex tapes that he made with the two victims. He asks her if she would read the minds of everyone who comes into Merlotte's to help clear his name, and when she explains how her "disability" actually works, he's amazed that she's never gone crazy.
Arlene asks her to babysit her kids so she and Rene can go out on a date, but then freaks out when she thinks Bill might be around her children, and Sookie goes home angry. Bill comes over, worried that she hadn't called to let him know she got home ok, and she apologizes, but is still fuming, and decides to dig a hole to plant a tree in the yard while Bill watches. Bill quips that usually when he's this angry he rips UP a tree, or else kills someone. You know, whichever is more convenient.
She calms down and after they have sex (What? No bath?!?) Bill tells her that Eric wants Bill to bring Sookie to Fangtasia. She doesn't want to go, afraid of what Eric might want, but Bill explains that if they don't go, Eric will just send other vampire to force her. She agrees to go the next night, and Bill convinces her to drink some more of his blood so that she will be stronger when they see Eric. She's grossed out by the idea, but finally agrees, and bites his neck, swallowing the blood and the dark visions that come with it, which leads to more SexyTimes.
"Bill made a noise deep in his chest and convulsed inside me. I raised my head from his neck, and a wave of dark delight carried me out to sea. This was pretty exotic stuff for a telepathic barmaid from northern Louisiana."
I love that last little bit of this chapter, not necessarily because of the blood drinking, but I have to say that these last few paragraphs show the authors' writing ability in an amazing light. "A wave of dark delight," is so poetically gorgeous that one almost wishes one was there to experience it...
Almost. Because actually - ew, ick, gah! But a gorgeous turn of phrase, nonetheless.
Anyway, technical issues aside, it's nice to see that Jason is continuing to make an attempt to mend things with his sister, although now I'm less convinced than I was before of his sincerity, as his request makes it feel like he was only being nice so she'd do him a favor. On the other hand, I'm sure he's scared, and it does seem like a reasonable request. I'm just amazed that they've reached adulthood without ever discussing her "disability" in this kind of detail before, as it seems he really has no idea how it works or how hard she has to work to keep people OUT.
I can also sympathize with Bill's feelings of helplessness, but I guess that just means he'll need to work a little harder to show the people of Bon Temps that he is nothing like the Psycho 3 were.
And last but not least - Chapter 9 looks to be an interesting one, with Bill and Sookie heading to Shreveport to visit Eric...can we guess what he wants with Sookie??
Differences Between the Book and True Blood:
Pretty much we are still on track, with very few differences between the show and the book. The main differences I've noticed are:
- In the TV show, Uncle Bartlett was found several days later, floating face down in the swamp that is fed by the creek behind his house, and Bill did the deed himself instead of phoning it in.
- Ummmmm...that's all I remember.
So, join me Friday for Chapters 9 and 10!! Until then, please leave YOUR commentary below! But remember, if you've read ahead, don't spoil anything for those of us who haven't! Thanks for joining, and we hope to see you for the next edition of...
DEAD UNTIL DARK!