Review: The Bedwetter, by Lee Allen Howard

Reviewed by De Gevallene, July 2021


I’m sure there will be reviewers moaning on about how this book is homophobic, misogynist, politically incorrect in numerous ways – (it’s fiction, my friends! It’s about a psychopath! Didn’t you read the blurb?) I wasn’t so fussed about that. I like dark books, and given the title I didn’t expect our hero to be a bleeding heart liberal or human rights activist.

And yes, the hero is a long way from nice. His fantasies are disgusting, he is a repulsive human being, he hates everyone, his behaviour is horrible even at his sanest, and as he starts to spiral into madness it gets a whole lot worse. What he does is horrific. It’s all grotesque. Nice has definitely left the building. In fact if you follow our hero through the length of this book you’ll be such a long way from nice yourself that you may never find nice again. Nice will probably lock the door and go up to its bedroom and draw the curtains and not let you back in the house.

It’s a cleverly written book, but a few chapters in, I found myself wondering “what’s it for?” There are reasons why I like dark books, and usually I learn from them. Yes, yes, yes, it’s got the usual “I was an abused child and look how that pans out” backstory. Moral message: don’t abuse your kids or they’ll go to the bad. But seriously, that backstory has been worked to death in the last few decades – is there really anything to add? Our hero had a particularly bad time around bedwetting, so please take note, if your child wets the bed, get some sensible advice, be nice to the kid (they don’t want to wet the bed either), invest in an incontinence alarm and follow the instructions faithfully (you have to put in the commitment, but I promise you they work). And that way, Alleluiah, your child won’t turn into a revolting psychopathic monster who scalps live cats for recreation. But hang on a minute – along with homophobia and misogyny and all the rest of that stuff, who’s said anything about the hideous treatment in this book of adults with nocturnal enuresis? Wet the bed as an adult and you’re probably a psychopath! Survive childhood abuse, and this is what you’ll turn into. Diseased inside and out, and utterly vile. Well, I don’t think that’s actually the message that motivated Mr Howard to write this story but it’s there, and I find that message – from the author – rather more unlikeable than the homophobia and misogyny of his fictional creation.

I’m proud to tell you I didn’t finish it. (Hence no stars and no Amazon review – it wouldn’t be fair). Proud because of course, it’s page-turning fodder. Yes, vile is addictive – we all want to look. Vile sells copy. People love vile. But I fought it off. I got half way through, checked the last few pages for evidence of any unexpected revelations or change of heart or maybe a referral to a talented therapist (didn’t find anything, but forgive me if I missed something crucial) and then dragged myself away from it. And yes, I’m “people” too so I was fighting off the urge to read on. Instead I settled for reading everyone else’s reviews.

Something that lots of them said was “not for the faint hearted”. Well, reviewers like to trot out clichés like that, and why not. It saves having to think too hard. I wondered whether actually it WAS a book for the faint hearted : wouldn’t anyone with a robust heart just walk away without getting sucked in?

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