Mapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones

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Mapping the Interior
By Stephen Graham Jones
Available 6/20/17
Publisher: Tor.Com
ISBN13: 9780765395108
Pages: 112
Genre: Novella

Synopsis:

Mapping the Interior is a horrifying, inward-looking novella from Stephen Graham Jones that Paul Tremblay calls “emotionally raw, disturbing, creepy, and brilliant.”

Walking through his own house at night, a fifteen-year-old thinks he sees another person stepping through a doorway. Instead of the people who could be there, his mother or his brother, the figure reminds him of his long-gone father, who died mysteriously before his family left the reservation. When he follows it he discovers his house is bigger and deeper than he knew.

The house is the kind of wrong place where you can lose yourself and find things you’d rather not have. Over the course of a few nights, the boy tries to map out his house in an effort that puts his little brother in the worst danger, and puts him in the position to save them . . . at terrible cost.


my-thought

Mapping the Interior is a stirring novella that is difficult to label. While there is a certainly element of horror and the paranormal occurring within its absorbing pages, there is something more magical happening.

Mapping the Interior is the story of a 15 yr old boy who is unexpectedly reacquainted with his father after leaving the reservation. However, there is a small complication with the encounter. His father lost his life under unexplained circumstances. What ensues is a poignant tale of life, loss and family and that is beautifully saturated with culture and wonder.

We are supplied with a young protagonist who is facing adversity on multiple levels. Young Junior is mourning the loss of a father that he cannot fully comprehend. He is living off of the reservation and adjusting to a new life that is not without challenges. He holds an adherent obligation to protect his younger brother Dino who is suffering what can best be described as seizures and cognitive impairment. His single mother is at the disadvantage of struggling to provide full financial support for the family, while also attending to Dino’s healthcare needs. We are thrust into a dismal environment that quickly plays on the emotions, creating an intense experience that will obscure the lines between reality and fantasy.

This is a ghost story brilliantly utilized to fashion a tale of discovery and realization. Haunting components are manipulated in order to carry Junior through a journey that will dare him to confront a difficult past and the reality of the present. Sometimes things are not as they seem. Sometimes we must look deep within ourselves to find the answers and closure we seek.

Mapping the Interior is as refreshing as it is transfixing. Culture, grief and family dynamics merge to construct an unforgettable story that evokes multiple emotions and resonates with powerful meaning. This is likely to be a very personalized experience with each encounter. I am resolutely giving Mapping the Exterior the highest recommendation.

* I would like to thank Tor for providing me with this copy. The review above is my own unbiased opinion.

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Long Black Veil by Jennifer Finney Boylen

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Long Black Veil
By Jennifer Finney Boylan
Publisher: Crown
ISBN13: 9780451496324
Pages: 304
Genre: Fiction/Mystery

Synopsis:

Long Black Veil is the story of Judith Carrigan, whose past is dredged up when the body of her college friend Wailer is discovered 20 years after her disappearance in Philadelphia’s notorious and abandoned Eastern State Penitentiary. Judith is the only witness who can testify to the innocence of her friend Casey, who had married Wailer only days before her death.

The only problem is that on that fateful night at the prison, Judith was a very different person from the woman she is today. In order to defend her old friend and uncover the truth of Wailer’s death, Judith must confront long-held and hard-won secrets that could cause her to lose the idyllic life she’s built for herself and her family.


my-thought

Long Black Veil is rather unique in what it brings to the table. What essentially begins a mystery centered around the loss of a friend develops into a detailed exploration of the lives of Judith and 4 other individuals forever connected by their past.

“You carry the past with you. Even if there’s a before, and an after, in your life. It’s still the same life. The trick is to build a bridge between that and what comes later.”

20 years ago Judith and 5 other college friends decided to visit Eastern State Penitentiary. Only 5 of them would ever leave. It was a day that would forever alter the course of their lives. Now events from that tragic day have resurfaced, and Judith finds that she must return to face a past she left far behind or a friend may be charged with a heinous crime he did not commit. But returning also means possibly sacrificing everything that she values in life.

I hesitate to label Long Black Veil as a mystery. There is an unsolved disappearance at the core of the story, but this is a beautiful examination of characterization and life.  Through an eccentric ensemble of cast, we are exposed to the trials of Judith’s journey into self acceptance and happiness. Judith is a refreshing protagonist the contributes many valuable and attractive variables that solidified the success of this story for me. It is unfortunately impossible to discuss the heart of what makes her so profound and fascinating without spoiling the book’s most rewarding and surprising facet.

“I think it’s very human, the hope that an all-encompassing love will change us into someone else, someone better. That this hope usually turns out to be false makes it no less human; the world is full of hopes far more unlikely than being transformed by love.”

While the setting is credible, this a character driven novel that relies heavily on the thoughts and actions of each individual in order to tell a complex story. The narration shifts from past to present and frequently passes between characters. But each transition is clean and easily defined, creating a fluid experience.  However, I find it fair to warn that due to the larger number of individuals involved, I found it took several chapters to acclimate myself. But once I did, it was impossible to put Long Black Veil down. This is the sort of book that beckons you to turn the light back on and read one more chapter.

Boylan’s writing is elegant and immersive. Her words carry you effortlessly through each page, creating a hauntingly lavish experience with a welcomed element of diversity that begs to be devoured. I have read reviews of those who flaws with the author’s approach to certain topics, but I cannot be counted among them, nor do I recommend reading them before approaching the book. I am enthusiastically recommending Long Black Veil to anyone who seeks an engaging and personal reading experience.

*I would like to thank Crown Publishing and Blogging for Books for supplying this copy in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

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Broken Branches by M. Jonathan Lee

brokenbranchesthe-book
Broken Branches
By M. Jonathan Lee
Available 7/27/17
Publisher: Hideaway Fall
ISBN13: 9780995492332
Pages: 294
Genre: Mystery

Synopsis:

‘Family curses don’t exist. Sure, some families seem to suffer more pain than others, but a curse? An actual curse? I don’t think so.’

A family tragedy was the catalyst for Ian Perkins to return to the isolated cottage with his wife and young son. But now they are back, it seems yet more grief might befall the family.

There is still time to act, but that means Ian must face the uncomfortable truth about his past. And in doing so, he must uncover the truth behind the supposed family curse.


my-thought

I have stared at this screen off and on for nearly two days in vain, attempting to compose a review that would accurately describe my time with Broken Branches. I am not sure that the end result will be entirely successful, but I have reached that point where I simply have to proceed.

This is a story of grief and loss. This is the mystery of the Perkins’ family history and the curse they have carried told through a compelling narration of past and present. We are introduced to Ian Perkins as he finds himself returning to his family home with his wife and son after a suffering a loss. Unfortunately, the Perkins are not alone. A dark history and tragedy seem to have taken up permanent residence within this remote cottage, overshadowing the lives within like the ever-present and looming sycamore tree that has haunted Ian’s dreams and childhood.

This is a story centered around slow revelation. The sort of tale that buries itself deep into your mind and finds a lasting home. Immediately thrust into lives full of misfortune and great loss, we are driven to explore Ian and his past. His family is amid turmoil with a threatened marriage and his unhealthy obsession with the family curse that haunts him. Ian’s character is successful simply for how credible he is. Perfectly timed emotions and responses accompany his descent into fear, setting the stage for a fully immersive mystery.

The world building cleverly embodies the traditional elements one can normally find in ghost stories. Cobweb Cottage is filled with ghastly sightings, creaking floors and the unknown, easily invoking a sense of the forbidding and sinister that creates an atmospheric read. The end result is the sort of suspense that leaves you holding your breath and turning each page in eager anticipation. Think “peaking through your fingers while watching a horror film.” You absolutely have to know what happens, but are terrified of the possibilities.

Lee’s succinct and fluent writing style is a refreshing change of pace, that manages to carry the story effortlessly while creating an ominous tone and experience. Competent narration allows for a natural transition between events of past and present. The end result is a fulfilling mystery that promises to delight a wide array of fans.

*I would like to thank the publisher for this copy in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.

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