Book Review: Alphonse by Carl Sever


Rating: 4/5 Bookworms

Short and Sweet Summary: When someone from Alphonse’s past threatens the ones he loves he’ll do anything to stop them before it’s too late.

Genre: Fiction – Coming of Age

My Review:

Downtown St. Joseph could’ve been any small midwestern town in the late fifties. Perhaps three blocks long, at best four, Main Street had in its stores nearly everything the good folks needed in their day-to-day.

ALPHONSE was unlike anything I’ve ever read before. It was definitely what I would call a slow burn; there was lots of descriptive paragraphs for the reader to be able to visualize exactly what the character was seeing and experiencing. Although the author, Carl Sever, was very descriptive when it came to the scenery he was ambiguous when it came to describing the horrors that took place in the summer of 1959. For a while I wasn’t sure what was going on other than something was very wrong with Francis, one of the main characters.

Within Jimmie, there thrived an uncontrollable drive to make certain that everyone he met was treated justly, no matter how unfortunate, or naive, or young.

Alphonse, formerly Jimmie from the South, was a hobo for twenty years before he met Edgar and Sara Sadler and decided to help them out. After witnessing the birth of their son Alphonse found that he couldn’t leave them behind. All of his life he has been a protector and he feels this especially for the ones he loves and the Sadler’s are now a significant part of his life. As godfather to both of Edgar and Sara’s sons he watches over them as best he can so when someone from Alphonse’s past starts showing an interest in Francis he feels that he must do everything in his power to stop them.

“…Me bein’ a crazy weirdo all this time, nobody gives me a second thought, and I’ve been free ta see things ‘n hear stuff…”

Most people view Alphonse as the town crazy but he is much smarter than people give him credit for. Although powerless he goes fearlessly toe-to-toe with one of the most powerful men in town, The Monsignor. People dismiss him because of the way he looks and the way he lives but the Sadler’s know that underneath the rough exterior lies a heart of gold. While he has plenty of weird and silly quirks I found myself starting to care for Alphonse. Selfless and loyal to a fault he shows us what it means to put others needs before our own. Slowly but surely he starts peeling back his layers as the pages go on and we start to see why the Sadler’s love him so much.

“Ain’t never been religious like you folks, but religion can’t ever disguise who you really are down deep. Goin’ ta church ain’t that much different ‘n drinkin’ liquor.”

This book explores corruption within the Catholic Church. It’s horrifying how sometimes even when it was exposed there was nothing that could be done to stop it. I think it’s hard for anybody to believe that the people we are supposed to trust the most, the people that we go to for guidance can also be the face of evil. For so long Priests got away with horrendous crimes because of their stance and influence within the community. This book brought to light how easy people can dismiss warning signs just because they refuse to believe what is right in front of them. The Monsignor knows that he can get away with his crimes because no one would believe Alphonse over him, but that doesn’t stop Alphonse from trying to expose him.

I’d always felt a mysterious unspoken bond with Alphonse, yet it took ’til that autumn before I got a true glimpse into the heart of the old hobo and began to understand the wisdom of the fool.

This book sticks with you long after the last page. The perseverance and determination  demonstrated by the Sadler family, along with Alphonse, was inspiring. Against all odds this family built a life for themselves that they can be proud of and even long after that unforgettable summer they continued to thrive. While life certainly threw its fair share of curve balls at them they never gave up and more importantly Alphonse never gave up on them.

Goodreads Synopsis:

After twenty years of riding the rails, Alphonse has earned a reputation for being a kindhearted soul always ready to help. When he helps the Sadlers, a young couple seeking a better life in small-town 1950s Indiana, he doesn’t intend to stay. But stay he does, keeping a close eye on the Sadlers and their two young sons–and an even closer eye on the town’s new priest, Father Brennon. On the surface, Brennon seems perfect for the job–but Alphonse crossed paths with him years earlier in the railyard jungle, and he knows better. Brennon doesn’t recognize Alphonse, but Alphonse has never forgotten Brennon . . . or his crimes. So when Brennon assigns the Sadlers’ son, Francis, who is now thirteen, the thankless task of cleaning and maintaining the church’s bell tower–work that often continues into the night–Alphonse immediately grows suspicious. Soon, he discovers that his worst fears have come to pass, and he races to find a way to protect Francis and reveal the truth to the Sadler family.

Buy ALPHONSE here:

Amazon | iBooks |Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Get to know Carl Sever:


Carl Sever began writing fiction in part because of his interest in the 1930’s Dust Bowl, hobo culture and lore, and small-town midwestern life, especially in areas dominated by the Roman Catholic Church. His writing has also been an important part of recovery from a traumatic brain injury he suffered in a car accident in 1990. Carl has been a teacher, a journalist, and nature photographer. He has also been a businessman and co-owner of an exclusive wholesale photo lab. He’s an avid outdoorsman, passionate fly-fisherman, and adventurer who has explored the mountains of Colorado, Montana, Canada, and Alaska. His travels have taken him to Costa Rica and Panama, reinforcing his study of Spanish as a second language. He’s a lifelong learner, with studies ranging from screenwriting and sculpture to nature photography. Alphonse is his first novel.

Connect with Carl Sever:

Website | Facebook

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