In October, my friends and I went full spooky season and watched a new movie every weekend. By new, I mean, it was a different movie, but it happened to be new to at least one of us every time. Watching movies with friends is nice, don’t you know?
Started a new job this month, so reading has noticeably slowed down. Whoops.
Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: Body horror, bad taxidermy
After a divorce, 34-year-old Kara moves in with her uncle rather than live with her mother. Uncle Earl owns the Wonder Museum, a place full of strange and manufactured finds, which is the key tourist attraction in their small town. A hole in the walls pulls Kara and her friend Simon into a twisted Narnia full of willows and untold horrors.
This book is immersive in the creepiest way. You are so deep in the physical sensations and the way reality slips slowly away from Kara as she gets deeper and deeper into the secrets of this haunted, hollow place. The creatures are creepy and vivid. But more over, I greatly admire how the narrative makes sure to let the reader that these terrors are having an effect. There’s lingering trauma that make more pedestrian problems seem far away, especially the rock bottom Kara felt like she hit.
What unnerved me the most was that this alternate reality is simply a malevolent beast. Unlike other horror where the chills and thrills clearly map to the protagonist’s trauma, this one just exists in its own evil. Thankfully, Kara has enough snark and faulty coping mechanisms to elicit a laugh when the tension gets too much.
If you ever wondered what Narnia would be like if it was less fairy tale whimsy and more Pan’s Labyrinth folk horror, definitely step into this world nested between different realities.
Here we are friends, in a time of social distancing where staying at home is the most productive thing you can do to keep yourself and those around you safe. Which for me, includes working my dayjob from 9 to 5 and then spending time with audiobooks while playing video games (currently playing Animal Crossing). This is what I read in March. I should really consider augmenting my reading goal, I’m 17 books ahead already.
Going to grandmother’s house turns into eldritch horror as Mouse is tasked by her father to clean the place out after grandma’s death. Armed with freelance work, helpful townsfolk, and a very good dog named Bongo, Mouse must face haunted woods, a creepy, prophetic journal, and her step-grandfather’s own descent into madness.
The concept of rifling through the deceased’s items can be uncomfortable enough. Mouse’s grandmother, however, had also been a hoarder on top of a generally terrible person. I really liked all the coping mechanisms Kingfisher presented during this cursed clean-up job: diving into edits, reading an old-timey journal as if it’s another editorial gig, listening to NPR, going on walks, and more. None of this, however, distracts from the creeping dread. It starts with a pedestrian kind of weird, i.e. the room of dolls, to something ripped out of Bloodborne’s design works.
Though immersive and character-driven in a way that makes the dead feel as alive as the living, the pacing of the story could have been a bit more consistent. I think I understood the intention of the normalcy, but when the ending came, it felt so abrupt. Perhaps that had been the point.
That being said, I will always appreciate a work which starts by “spoiling” the ending, but continues to deliver on the terror. We know Mouse and Bongo are telling us the adventure at grandma’s house after the fact. It doesn’t make the monsters any easier to look at or the mantras any less disturbing.
Unsettling in a way that makes rocks absolutely horrifying, a must-read for fans of folkloric horror and very good boys.