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Review: The Ferryman Institute by Colin Gigl

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The Ferryman Institute by Colin Gigl // VBC ReviewThe Ferryman Institute
Colin Gigl
Published: Sept. 27, 2016 (Gallery Books)
Purchase: Book Depository or Amazon
Review source: copy provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review 

Reviewed by: Beth

Rating (out of 5): 4 stars

The mythical Ferryman, a mysterious figure named Charon, shepherds the dead across the River Styx. Legend has it that those who couldn’t pay the coin toll were left to wander without crossing. But what if, as is often the case with myths and legends, what is known is only a part of the truth? What if, instead, said mythical Ferryman is…a whole lot of people? An entire institute, in fact? A business, endorsed by Death, that helps souls to cross over in order to prevent a flood of souls from overtaking humanity? This is the premise behind The Ferryman Institute, where one Charley Dawson is on the edge of burnout, but is virtually immortal. The Institute refuses to let its best Ferryman go, regardless of the emotional damage being done. Then one day, Charley is given a choice. And NO one could have predicted the consequences of that choice.

Written in the same vein as books by Christopher Moore, The Ferryman Institute has a sardonic and wry sense of humor. Few authors could successfully write about suicide and not have it come across as morbid or cruel. Colin Gigl manages to do just that, walking the tightrope without ever falling into the depths. He takes a dark subject and gives it humor and honesty, while throwing in elements of absolute absurdity.

The characters were a delight. My favorite one had to be Cartwright. He’s a lovely gentleman, who adores tea and books, and is Charley’s only true friend. Did I mention that he loves tea and books? Seriously—right up my alley. Charley is no slouch himself, and Alice, the girl that causes all the trouble and could be the most difficult character to write, is by turns heartbreaking and humorous.

The setting of the book is modern-day, though very little of the book is about location–except for the actual institute itself. It sounds like any other institute—gray and imposing, somewhat sterile. But really, the book is less about the places and more about the people—dead or alive. There is hatred, revenge, love, friendship—all revolving around death. It’s just as bizarre as it sounds, and yet it works perfectly.

I will caution the reader—this is NOT a heavily supernatural book. It took me a bit to get into at first, because I simply wasn’t sure what to expect. If you’re not familiar with Christopher Moore (who, by the way, I totally recommend), then be prepared for a sly, sarcastic look at a topic most people shy away from–death. Moore’s novels have been described as involving “conflicted everyman characters struggling through supernatural or extraordinary events.” That is exactly the case here, and if this book is any indication, Colin Gigl is on track to become a new must-read author for me.

Sexual content: none

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