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Reviewed by Christian Sia for Readers' Favorite
Count It All Joy by Mitchell Allen is a deeply moving story that explores the depth of trauma and its effect on the life of a young man. Luke suffers from post-traumatic stress as he grows up in a small town, and in spite of the efforts of his grandparents to bring joy to his life, he remains morbid, both at home and in school. From childhood, the seeds of loneliness and languor take root in his heart and he grows up seeking refuge in alcohol, bereft of love and a strong sense of identity. Seeking meaning, Luke leaves the familiar landscapes of his childhood behind and embarks on a quest that will either ruin or redeem him. What lies beyond the mountains and the deserts of this new experience? Can he finally reconnect with himself and humanity? The answers to these questions are stunning.
Mitchell Allen’s protagonist is a character whose personality echoes a lot of the pain that most readers can identify with. The author captures the heart of the protagonist with clarity and infuses the story with surprising doses of realism. The protagonist is genuinely flawed and readers will find themselves often irritated by him. “I felt embarrassed to be crying on the sidewalk while I walked to school. I didn’t even know why I was crying. I just felt awful.” I wanted to understand the very depth of the ache felt by this young man and felt annoyed that he couldn’t pull himself together. But the pathos grows as the reader journeys with him from page to page. Count It All Joy is a gripping story with strong psychological underpinnings, a story with its fair share of hope and a message that is very strong; it’s balanced and deftly written in a compelling first-person narrative voice.