Two more short reviews of two horror reads this Halloween season.
Between NOW and THEN: the same family, the same home, different ghosts.
Back in 1976, Loo and Bee are the two closest sisters in a family of five kids and two artist parents who decided to move to a run-down cottage in the middle of buttfuck nowhere. In that isolation and as their parents’ marriage crumbles down, the kids not only run wild but also into terrifying trouble: starting with the scratching, then the knocks behind the walls and the unexplained phenomena that attracts the attention of a group of paranormal investigators, ready to camp at the house, equipment and theories at ready.
30 years later, Loo, now Lucy, is called by her mother to go back. To that same house to participate in the research about the same phenomena as a follow-up to the investigation that started such a long time ago.
Alternating between now and then, the novel focuses on both the tensions within Lucy’s family (her abusive relationship with her older sister Bee, their father’s continuous absence) and the strange occurrences that plague them. Adding two disparate groups of investigators (with a connection between them) and their shoddy techniques, coupled with the reader’s knowledge that things in this genre are never quite what they appear to be and we have the recipe for a creepy, intriguing, ultimately satisfying ghost story. Bonus points for the truly terrifying narrator of the audiobook: I just could not listen to it at night.
Between NOW and THEN: the same town, the same homes, everything is rotten.
Inexplicable, goosebumpy phenomena is a good word for what happens to the girls in The Rust Maidens by Gwendolyn Kiste.
The girls of Denton Street, Cleveland, are fierce girls from a complicated town full of overprotective mothers and preoccupied fathers, living in the shadow of a collapsing industry and under the weight of misogyny and patriarchy. Then one day some of the girls from Denton Street start changing: their bodies leak dark water, their fingernails turn into broken (and malleable) glass and their bones become corroded metal peeking under their flesh for all to see. No one knows why they are mutating.
Phoebe is the wild one and our narrator, the one who gets away when the strange things happen then come back at the start of the novel some decades later to find nothing else much changed and yet. And yet, everything has.
Alternating between now and then, Phoebe’s narrative intrigues and carries the reader through fears and revelations, through decades of wanting and waiting and suspended in limbo. In fact, we know nothing of who Phoebe has become in the intervening years precisely because her heart has remained behind with her best friend, one of the Rust Maidens. Her love, her guilt, the lack of answers moves Phoebe then and now in a novel about connection, love and weirdness.
The creepiest thing about these books is that there is no clear answer, no defined solution to their supernatural horrors.