If there is a valuable lesson Kenn Bivins’ startling debut novel Pious has to teach us, it is this: you can’t escape reality just by living a lie as there is an enormous price to pay for the severe consequences of hiding behind a masquerade of disguise. Bivins’ absorbing portrayal of one man’s ultimate journey from resentment to redemption in Pious will compel you right from the beginning, as the protagonist goes through a life-changing transformation that will genuinely stun you along the way.
To the eyes of everyone in his close-knit, family-friendly neighborhood of Mechi Lane, Carpious Mightson appears as an exemplary citizen and a caring neighbor who is perceived as ‘calm, cool and collective’ since these are the attributes Carpious inadvertently display on the surface. What his neighbors, co-workers or even his girlfriend does not know is that underneath all that is ‘a man of conflict and rage’ who once was a convicted criminal harboring an ugly secret.
Full of resentment for the horror of his childhood, Carpious has been trying to erase his past by keeping the demons at bay. Now hiding behind God, wearing ‘the guise of a man of virtue and charisma’, Carpious is running away from his past, from who he really is and where he come from by opting to live a lie. No matter what it takes.
That was until his lie inevitably catches up with him. When Ian Kaplan, a registered sex-offender, who knows a dark segment in Carpious’ past moves into Mechi Lane, and his addict of an ex-wife Alethea resurfaces with an agenda to blackmail Carpious by threatening to expose him for who he is, Carpious’ ideal life is abruptly disrupted by these reminders of his former life, a life he had rather not remember at any cost.
As Carpious tries to wrap his head around these potentially threatening disruptions in his otherwise perfect life (or so he thinks), a murder takes place in his peaceful neighborhood. Eventually, the façade of a deceiving life that he’s built starts to crumble down and his resentments re-emerges, as his past life come back to haunt him.
In what follows in this hard-hitting tale of a man trying to disguise his true self, Bivins paints an astonishing picture of the complexities and contrasts between the ugliness of resentment and the beauty of redemption. The poignant narrative is more real than reality itself, driven by a multifaceted protagonist that Bivins meticulously carved out with the precision of an expert novelist.
The elegant prose will keep you hooked as the enormity of the repercussions faced by the central character leads to a staggering climax that will never cease to amaze you. In essence, Pious is a praise-worthy, modern-day work of fiction that will leave you transfixed. Highly recommended!
Reviewed by Hamdhoon Rashad for Bookpleasures.com