Sang Pak’s debut novel, Wait until Twilight, is probably the strangest coming-of-age novel I have ever experienced – and I have read dozens of them over the years. Pak’s novel has a bit of the feel of Stephen King’s famous coming-of-age novel, Carrie, but the horror in Wait until Twilight has nothing to do with the supernatural. Instead, Pak’s main character becomes obsessed with the existence of three terribly deformed triplets whose mother claims they were immaculately conceived.
Sixteen-year-old Samuel has had to do a lot of growing up in recent months. What was once a normal family of four is now down to just Samuel and his father because, after their mother’s death, Samuel’s brother left home to attend college. Samuel’s father, grieving the loss of his wife, works longer hours than ever and Samuel finds himself alone much of the time.
Despite his good grades, Samuel is a bit of a rebel at his small-town-Georgia high school, and many of his friends have a similar attitude about school. Samuel, however, is more fortunate than most of his friends are because his teachers, aware of his home life, are willing to cut him some slack as long as his grades remain high. Samuel is happy enough to take advantage of the situation but things get complicated when, after struggling to come up with an idea for his class video project, he decides to verify and document the existence of the deformed triplets.
Samuel’s first look at the triplets leaves him utterly horrified and repulsed by what he sees, yet he becomes so obsessed about the welfare of the babies that he cannot stay away from the old house where they live with their mother and a much older brother. It is his compulsion to see the babies again that ultimately exposes the shocking dark side of Samuel’s own nature and, when he is caught snooping one time too many, lands him squarely in the path of a psychopath.
I will remember Wait until Twilight more for its mood and atmosphere than for its plot elements because, frankly, this is a creepy book, one filled with the kind of depravity seldom found in a serious coming-of-age novel. Samuel, despite the trauma of what he learns about himself, does a lot of growing during the course of Sang Pak’s story but the book loses some of its potential impact as a result of its rather over-the-top ending. There is a lot to like about Wait until Twilight, including its sympathetic main characters and its overall tone, but its less-than-satisfying ending overwhelms much of what precedes it.
Rated at: 3.0