“By far the best fiction I’ve ever read” she said

“The narrative is masterfully crafted, and I find it baffling the author is someone other than Charles himself. (…) I, Charles from the Camps, is by far the best piece of fiction I’ve ever read.”

Read the full review below…

“Charles is one of the few novels I truly believe everyone should read. The narrative is masterfully crafted, and I find it baffling the author is someone other than Charles himself. It is a testament to the author, whom I learned, spent his life raised in foreign lands as the son of missionaries and observed a world from a perspective that third-world travelers (tourists, or short-term service volunteers and missionaries) completely miss. Akin to Ishmael Beah’s, A Long Way Home, or Girl Soldier, co-authored by Faith J. H. McDonnell and Grace Akallo, Charles describes what life is like (or could be like) for one African boy displaced by war, disease, and famine, raised in refuge camps with his parents, and four of nine surviving siblings. His account, albeit fiction, is not really fiction at all, but a story well crafted of what is, was, and what for many, could be if the hands of fate drop them situations of opportunity or uncertain peril. That in its own sense is as terrifying as it is tragic. If I were to describe to the ‘highlights’ of the tale, it would be easy to dismiss the storyteller as a thug, or part of the problem, but when you get to know Charles in the first few pages, you cannot help but root for him. Glimpses of his humanity, his desire to love and be loved, his hope to be regarded as a valued creation of the creator, the aspiration of securing a place for himself to have security and a future – all these things we too want for ourselves and our families – unite us. No matter how bad things get for Charles, or how dark his paths take him, I held hope that he’d find redemption and his happily-ever-after. With about 10% of the story left, I felt stuck, wadding through a repulsive bog of vile and repulsive muck. While this may sound like a dig to the author, it is quite the opposite. I found myself giving up on Charles. His decisions, his actions, the man he’d become made it hard to look at him with forgiving eyes. The author takes the reader on a dark journey, one that makes it easy to judge…in the way we tend to do when we feel the possibility of rehabilitation has passed. There were many times in that last 10%, where I had to look away. …And when I did, it forced me to consider my own role in the lives of the boys and girls who would become Charles. An American, with a roof over my head and food at an arms reach any moment of the day. What is my role? Certainly not what it has been. The story of Charles is not a lighthearted tale and stays with you long after the last page is read. I highly recommend this story to…well, to everyone who considers themselves able to handle a mature read. I, Charles from the Camps, is by far the best piece of fiction I’ve ever read.”

About Joel D. Hirst

Joel D. Hirst is a novelist and a playwright. His most recently released work is "Dreams of the Defeated: A Play in Two Acts" about a political prisoner in a dystopian regime. His novels include "I, Charles, From the Camps" about the life of a young man in the African camps and "Lords of Misrule" about the making and unmaking of a jihadist in the Sahara. "The Lieutenant of San Porfirio" and its sequel "The Burning of San Porfirio" are about the rise and fall of socialist Venezuela (with magic).
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