Gabe is a child angel who lives with his father, Michael, and stepmom, Ariel. He’s a polite and cooperative child, but he misses his mother, Lucy, who’s in Hell. During a Sunday trip to the Eden Botanical Garden, he sneaks away from his parents and engages in several malicious pranks against fellow garden visitors. As he commits each one, he takes on an aspect of devilry, until he has a forked tail, horns, and red skin, supplemented by a tree branch that turns into a hissing snake receding into an abstract wall of fire. As he passes out, he hears his mother’s voice discussing his bad behavior with his father and how they should remedy it – an especially apt assignment for Lucy, as it’s her hellish job to punish sinners for the consequences of their actions.
With his stepmother (and her halo) trailing behind, Michael and Lucy take Gabe back to Eden to apologize to each person he pranked. All are gracious and forgiving, and by the time his apologies are completed, he’s an angel again. As he apologizes to his parents and admits how much he misses his mother, Michael promises that he’ll see more of her:
“I’ll make sure you see more of him,” Mike said to Lucy as they parted ways. “Seems like he needs a good influence like you around. He needs his mom.”
Imagine the screams of evangelicals as they read such heresy. A DEVIL as a GOOD INFLUENCE?!? And it’s his MOTHER!!! 😈 👿
Accompanying this bizarre story is the most disturbing comic-style art ever witnessed by Book Review Gal. Each drawing is primitive and exaggerated, reminiscent of Outsider Art: Lucy and her pointed teeth devour an apple against an orange and red gated background. The security guards have wings. Nearly every person in the park has a halo (although, for some reason, Gabe’s intended third victim does not. Maybe because Gabe fell victim to his own plan?).
Let’s not discuss the grammatical mistakes. (Okay, just one: “As he lied there sick …”)
Adam Schrader is an allegedly well-educated man, holding a BA from a religious college and a master’s in journalism. He’s a longtime freelance journalist and photographer, and while his website features an extensive resume and letters of recommendation, along with just about every news story he’s written, this book does not appear on his wide world of web.
Gabe in the Garden is a bizarre junior theological text with a single mission: to scare the shit out of children. Who other than a screaming biblethumper writes and (horrifyingly) illustrates a book teaching kids that playing pranks and disobeying your parents will turn you into a literal devil? If that were the case, Book Review Gal would have been a red, horned, fork-tailed, snake-wielding demon by the age of two; as it stands, she’s an extremely pale white woman of advanced age and lacks any protuberances other than the standard female package. An essential evangelical message – a child needs his mother – is lost in the fact that said mother is in Hell, but why would any Christian author put a mother in Hell? Is this a reverse version of Adam Sandler’s Little Nicky? The general impression of the Christian Bible — as well as Good Omens, written by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, and starring Michael Sheen and David Tennant on Amazon Prime — is that angels and devils aren’t approved to keep company, much less make babies. Schrader has some explaining to do.
And the dedication? “For my loving mom, a role-model who would go to Hell for her children.” Yes, most mothers would, but who in their right mind would dedicate a children’s book this way?!?
Adam Schrader is obviously a theologically troubled man whose mind works in mysterious ways, because Gabe in the Garden, full of allusions and metaphors, is a terrorist tract aimed at the minds and souls of tiny Christians. Book Review Gal was one of those many years ago and still quakes at the memory of having the fear of damnation drilled into her (which sometimes returns when she takes too many gabapentin). Children don’t need any extra source of nightmares. Stay away from this book … unless, of course, you’re a devil worshipper.
(PLEASE PROTECT THEM!)