In her afterword, Paula D. Ashe states that she feels, at times, like telling readers NOT to read this book, to find and read anything else. Because it will hurt. As a reader, and an author, I believe the truth is deeper than that. It has to hurt to “write” the stories. There is no way to know how a reader will respond, just a deep-seated wish that they will react.
This is a powerful collection. It would not be possible to paint the vivid familial and work-related relationships, conflicts, betrayals and horror contained in these stories without a wealth of experience, whether personal or from close observation. This is writing, in other words, that matters. Even if it never mattered to anyone but the author, this is what it’s about when it’s most powerful. Putting the things that matter into words and bringing them to life.
I’m not going to do one of those story-by-story breakdowns because it’s too simple to drop a spoiler, and because nothing I say will do more than her words to present each. I will say that my favorites of the collection are “Exile in Extremis,” (Kudos for inclusion of the King in Yellow) “Jacqueline Laughs Last in the Gaslight,” and “Telesignatures from a Future Corpse,” which is the final story in the book, and would make a great film.
There are recurring themes of addiction, obsession, loss of children, loss of sanity. There are no happy characters in this book with the possible exception of Jaqueline… but you’ll have to decide that on your own, for her and her Deacon…
I have read collections by seasoned authors that don’t touch the quality of this writing. Very much looking forward to reading more from the author. Would not be surprised to see this one win awards.