Short stories are usually a mixed bag for me but this book’s blurb sold me on my need to dive right in. I had planned on reading a story a day and that worked for a couple of days, then I couldn’t help myself. With a diverse cast including mothers, witches, demons and a preacher’s daughter, and themes of loss, suffering and resilience, this was unlike any other short story collection I’ve come across.
One of the things I love about short stories is that there’s usually something there for everyone. I’ve enjoyed finding out what stories resonated with other reviewers. My favourites are marked with 🖤.
Your Clothes a Sepulcher, Your Body a Grave
First love can be complicated …
I thought if I only loved you enough, I could make the story come untrue.
The Women Who Sing For Sklep
A composer seeks a new sound.
“You do not want to become one of us.”
The Warriors, the Mothers, the Drowned 🖤
A mother’s fierce love for her child and the lengths she will go to to protect her.
“Many others did this before you, better than you,” says the coyote. “And they never made it out alive.”
Too Lonely, Too Wild
She may not have inherited Grammy’s witching power, but she did inherit the family Bible.
No one goes halfway bewitched.
Roiling and Without Form
Molly has only ever known life at the Flamingo but can’t help wondering what’s beyond the marsh.
She sees everyone like this: dangerous or edible. Maybe even Molly. Maybe especially Molly.
A son sets out to pay his father’s debt.
“Go anywhere you like. But not my nursery.”
The Fifth Gable
Marigold yearns for a child and hopes the women of the four-gabled house can help her.
“Whatever else you do, dear, remember to blame yourself.”
White Throat Holler 🖤
The Blanchard sisters and Esther Grace, a preacher’s daughter, hunt demons.
“You know your town isn’t like other towns,” he said.
“It just isn’t.”
Russula’s Wake 🖤
Jane’s children are Paley’s, and they need nourishment.
With no other Paleys around, sometimes Jane could make herself forget that the Paley rules were rules for a reason, that they were supposed to protect the people who followed them.
The Lights We Carried Home 🖤
A film crew, a haunted child and a sister who needs to know the truth.
Before I went to school, I thought everyone lived in a kerosene haze and listened at night to the screams of the dead.
Miss Augusta has a new student: Lilianne, the new lighthouse-keeper’s daughter.
Thickening, thickening, filling the crack,
The sun comes out, the water goes back.
White stars in the night, red rain in the day
There’s grass on the shore, there’s fish in the bay.
At times I felt like I was plonked right in the middle of a story and had to scurry to catch up. Other times, the story finished and I wished for an entire novel so I could continue to explore. Sometimes I’d sit there at the end of a story, trying to figure out how I could explain what I’d just experienced to someone else. A couple of times I was certain I’d missed something crucial because I was hazy on the why or the how.
Whether they told of obsessive love, strange appetites or the bonds of family, each story felt delightfully off-centre. With such a limited word count I was often surprised by how easily I could visualise the world I was visiting and a lot of the descriptions, even of things that were uncomfortable, felt beautiful.
Thank you so much to Undertow Publications for the opportunity to read this book.
Once Upon a Blurb
Kay Chronister’s remarkable debut collection of modern horror tales, Thin Places, echoes with the ghosts of Shirley Jackson and Charlotte Perkins Gilman, while forging its own unique gothic sensibility. Here there be monsters! And witches!
These are tales of monstrous mothers and dark desires. Love, grief, death; and the exquisite pain and joy of life. With transcendent prose, Chronister chronicles the lives of powerful women and children; wicked witches and demons. These are the traumatic ghosts we all carry, and Chronister knows what it means to be human and humane. Powerful and hypnotic, these are tales you won’t forget, from a vibrant new voice.