Pieces by Michael Aloisi & Rebecca Rowland is a very unsettling tale about a man who has shipped thirty packages all across the United States. But what is inside these boxes isn’t what anyone could possibly expect…
Content Warnings: Infidelity, child endangerment, child death, suicide, rape/sexual assault, abuse, self-injurious behavior, homophobia, mental health disorders, alcoholism, drug use & others.
Full disclosure: I was given a free copy of this book from one of the authors in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my rating in any way.
Let’s dive in!
My Thoughts on Pieces by Michael Aloisi & Rebecca Rowland
Is there anything more unsettling than having something terrible mailed to you? I remember the anthrax mailing scare of 2001 very vividly. Since then, I have been cautious with my mail. Not just thinking a chemical like that could be mailed to me, but because you really never know what someone may mail you… This book did not help that fear.
Right from the prologue, I knew I would be in for quite the ride here. The prologue was extremely unsettling and it perfectly set the tone for the rest of the book.
The prologue is where we see Dennis carry out his big act, which was all so well thought out! I was immediately nervous to see what was to come… I mean, we had just learned that Dennis stalked a young woman named Julie Piedmont before killing her and chopping her into thirty pieces, wrapped each piece in butchers paper, and mailed them to different people across the US. How much darker can it get?!
Turns out it can get MUCH DARKER.
From there, the story jumps between sections that focus on Dennis, the man we met in the prologue, and a reporter named Jax. Scattered between these two main storylines were stories from the people that received pieces of the girl as well as a forensic report, a blog post, and a couple Reddit threads.
I thought it was really interesting that this story can almost be read as a collection of short stories, as each chapter focusing on a different gift recipient was so unique. However, all of the characters had a few things that connected them; many of them were nasty people, and many thought the body parts were a special and pointed gift to them as they made a connection between it and something they had going on in their personal lives.
I was shocked at how quickly many of the people we focused on were able to jump to make a personal connection to the mailed body part, rather than doing what most would do; call the police!
One side note; while reading one of the chapters in this story was the first time I’ve seen mention of cyclic vomiting syndrome anywhere other than on my medical records! I had this for a couple of years. It’s not fun at all. Seeing it in a text like this totally caught me off guard, but it was nice to see!
A Breakdown of the Package Recipients:
George – Phoenix, AZ –
A nasty and horrible old man on blood thinners who received piece three. He thinks the package was a personally heavy message from his daughter.
Kristin – Philadelphia, PA –
A desperate woman that is having an affair with a married man. She thinks the package and note was from her man with a message just for her.
Emily – Salt Lake City, UT –
A woman with a family history with salt, who now owns a salt flats tour company and hates her children. She’s plotting something truly horrible…
Sandy – Salt Lake City, UT –
A woman that works with Emily. She discovered the package and later had to deal with Emily’s actions.
Daniel – Wells, ME –
A detective assigned to a suspected overdose case. However, there’s something going on with this man. Something is wrong. And he’s taking it out on his liver. The package he received was a liver.
Brent – Branson, MO –
A performer who loses his voice receives the girls uvula. Thinks at first that it’s a taunt from a crazed fan that knows he can’t currently sing. But when he leaves the apartment, he makes a darker connection.
Lucille – San Francisco, CA –
A news anchor at a local station. A major narcissist that thinks she deserves the best and that everyone around her is an idiot. On a run she found an abandoned box that held a nose.
Marge – Pittsburgh, PA –
A woman who hates a lot about herself and her life. When she sees an ad featuring an old friend who had lost a ton of weight, she can’t wait to try the program. Of course when her piece arrives, she’s convinced it was sent to her by this weight loss company…
Allie – Wilmington, NC –
A woman who had once lived a lifestyle where she was off the grid has settled down with a lawyer. When the package arrived, Allie thinks it’s for her partner. This chapter will really make your skin crawl!
Adriel – Montpelier, VT –
A reformed alcoholic turned into a servant of God. He received a rib bone, which of course, he related to a sign from God.
Cory – Boston, MA –
A student that isn’t adjusting well to college life. She begins a bad habit of stealing her roommates mail. When the package arrives, addressed to her roommate, Cory can’t help herself and opens up an arm.
Byron – Cadillac, MI –
A man obsessed with breaking into peoples houses to look through their things. One day he finds an opened box with intestines spilling out.
Mark – Atlanta, GA –
A washed up celebrity looking to reignite his fame. This man was truly horrible. I wasn’t surprised he had the breast that had been sent to him. And yet again, he thought it was actually something with double meaning.
Phew, what a crew of people! While this certainly took up a lot of space in the story, I was curious where the other pieces ended up. A few of the additional sections like the forensic report or blog post listed other towns where body parts were found, but we didn’t get much detail there. From what I noted while reading, I got to 25 pieces. What happened to the other five?!
I guess we’ll never know.
My Favorite Passages from Pieces
If someone were to draw a chart of his notoriety as a journalist, it would look like Mount Everest. It was straight up, with a few stops at base camps, and then hit a peak that took him to national attention. But, just like Everest, you can’t breathe at the top, so you have to come down quick.
Dennis cringed as the sharp edge of the plastic top on his Dunkin’ Donuts coffee scraped against his upper lip.
That was part of what made him a great reporter: he could remain calm, even when someone was shoveling bullshit all over him or accusing him or attacking him; no matter what, he could just stay cool, get the facts, and be the better person.
My Final Thoughts on Pieces
While I absolutely hated all of the characters, I read through each piece of the story antsy to try to learn more. When I hit the ending, I will admit, at first I felt a bit let down as it did feel rushed and unfinished. But the longer I thought about the work overall, the more that made sense, and the more brilliant I thought it was!
Don’t pick this one up if you’re looking for a story that goes from Point A to Point B and wraps up nicely. Reading this book is like looking at a quilt. Each chapter is like a square of the quilt; each chapter is its own story, but it’s all stitched together in one piece and connected by the same underlying thread.
I highly recommend this to horror fans that aren’t shy when it comes to the darkness of humanity and how wicked we can be.
Snag a copy through Bookshop to help support local indie bookshops:
Thanks for reading!