Fiction is rife with children unfairly blamed by their father for their mother’s death in childbirth. Fiction is also rife with corrupt revival preachers (just once, I’d like to see a revival preacher who doesn’t fake his own miracles). “Clap Your Hands” gives us a powerful combination of the two.
The story opens on a ten or eleven year old boy named Five, who has been abused by his preacher father, for his entire life. Despite this, he is essentially a sweet kid who loves listening to the Psalms, even as he fears hearing his father preach about hell and damnation (having heard a bit too much of that already). The first time someone shows him real kindness, he discovers an ability he didn’t know he had.
The speculative element in this story is subtle, but I didn’t mind that. It’s almost more magical realism than fantasy, dealing mostly with horrors of the human variety.
This is a dark story, without hope or redemption at the end. That being said, the prose is clean, clear, and lovely, which makes for a surprisingly enjoyable read. And it’s not long, which means there’s less time for the hopelessness to really sink its claws into you. Despite the dark ending, this is a well-crafted story and an engaging read.