By Ben Marcus
Alfred A. Knopf, $25.95, 304 pages

Sam and Claire love each other and their daughter, Esther. But when an epidemic strikes which turns the sound of children’s speech lethal, the doting parents become deathly ill. Do they go into hiding like strange radio transmissions suggest, or do they stand their ground and protect their family? Author Ben Marcus’s The Flame Alphabet starts out with so much potential; a basic description of the plot would attract most readers. But it was actually difficult to finish reading. Described as an intellectual horror story, the book is a challenging read due to the abstract and experimental approach Marcus takes. When both oral and written language are affected, what is left? How does society communicate? As Sam and Claire get sick and their bodies begin decomposing, Esther gets more and more distant, seeking out adults to harm with her words. The Flame Alphabet has been positively received by many readers, but it is personally hard to see what the draw is.

Reviewed by Kathryn Franklin