Long time, no post.
I’ll be honest (not that anyone would know otherwise). I’ve been swamped at work and have been coming home absolutely mentally drained to the point where I just want to crawl into bed and stay in darkened silence for about a thousand years. I’ve had about four nights of good sleep in the past four months. I’m irritable as fuck and when I don’t want to crawl into bed forever I want to get into my car and just…drive. Drop everything and go.
I feel bad for my wife, who has to deal with my obnoxious ass.
Plus, I have a sequel to write (currently drafting, finally–thought I had drafted it, cannot find the paperwork and now of course I remember nothing) and a book coming out soon and short stories that no one wants because they are awful.
Anywho, so here are two mini reviews of audiobooks I listened to, so I can catch up with my reviews!
Conjure Women by Afia Atakora
Set in dual timelines, the story covers the lives of three women: Miss Maybelle before the Civil War, her daughter Rue before and after, and the master’s daughter Varina. After the war, Rue finds herself Miss Maybelle’s successor, struggling to hold together her secluded community of freed slaves in the war’s aftermath. She had held her community together through lies and spells, and the rise of religion, brought by a smooth-talking preacher, begin to unknit her tenuous bindings. The preacher, plus the birth of a strange, black-eyed boy named Bean.
I enjoyed this book quite a bit, although I was never really sure if it was truly magical or magical realism? Was the magic real? Or was it something root knowledge and superstition that people believed in so much that it became true? I thought the book was historical fantasy (which is what drew me towards it, plus that gorgeous cover), but it was more historical fiction with a dash of magical realism/superstition/weird shit?
Either way, the book is hella intense. Atakora spares no detail in documenting the horrors of slavery, and the many, many ways enslaved peoples were bound to the people who owned them, and the many convoluted ways enslaved people worked with the white masters. The dynamics were fascinating, but you never forgot who owned the power, and how that power corrupted and twisted.
The aftermath of the war was also interesting, as there is the mystery of the ghosts (haints) running through the woods, and Rue’s own magical (or not) nature, and how that makes her untrustworthy towards the people in ways her mother wasn’t. There’s also the mystery of Bean and the way superstitions play into fear, and how fear can overtake a community just like that. And, of course, the ever present danger of white people coming to take away hard-earned freedom.
The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones
Ten years ago, four Blackfeet men trespassed on elder hunting grounds and massacred a herd of elk just before Thanksgiving. Now, the four are dying…
This. Damn. Book.
It starts slow, with postal worker Lewis living his life outside the rez with a white wife. He’s done everything he can to escape from the rez and his previous life, while still honoring his roots. Things are pretty chill, but weird stuff starts happening. A new American Indian woman starts working them him, and she has some scars that are…similar to a pregnant elk he buried in shame ten years previously. Then his dog is nearly murdered, almost stomped to death. The shadow of an elk is revealed in his ceiling fan’s revolving blades. And Lewis starts to think that his new coworker—or maybe his wife—is out to get him.
Okay, this got far bloodier, and much weirder, than I was expecting. It started off kinda slow, to the point where I was like, okay great, where’s the horror, and then fucking scalps are coming off and teeth are being cracked open and holy shit holy shit holy shit.
Anywho. The storyline takes a sharp curve about halfway through, and concludes in probably the most intense basketball game I’ve ever read. I won’t give any spoilers, but the ending is utterly fantastic and I might have cried a little.
I have never read any indigenous horror before (mainly because I’m not a horror reader, and also because a lot of indigenous writing has shamefully flown under my radar), but now I want to read all of it.
However, shame on the fucking cover designer for putting a motherfucking deer on the cover of a book about murderous ghost-elk. Two totally different species.
Have you read either of these? What did you think?