Like Stephen King, Patricia Fulton creates not merely a story, she creates a world in her book. King uses Maine as the blueprint to his stories, while Fulton uses the rain-starved South. She bounces from townfolks to townsfolk to capture the full impact of the horror that this drought and the mysterious happenings that have plagued these two towns.
Yes, two towns. I typically skip reading Chapter titles and subtext, so it wasn’t until seven or eight chapters in that I realized that half the characters are located on Junction, Texas and half in Reserve, Louisiana. The story made much more sense when I figured that out. My bad.
This is an author who knows how to gain from head-hopping. For example, one of the major characters is Jared, a young boy whose father has been missing since he was little and a mother who is losing her marbles. Jared rides his bike down the street carrying a week’s worth of laundry. He sees the temperature sign on the bank tease him by dropping a degree and then immediately went back up to 109. So he flicks off the sign. At that moment, the focus switches to Frank. He’s inside the bank watching Jared flick off the sign and start yelling and he starts laughing at the kid’s rediculous behavior. He reminds himself to tell his wife, Marcy, about this when he gets home. The focus switches again to Marcy, who is running naked through the streets, the latest example of an odd behavior performed by a local, and then Marcy gets hit by an automobile, the driver a woman only in town to research the drought.
Before the scene comes to a close, the author brings us back to Frank who thinks that it would of be a hysterically funny sight to see his wife and her floppy breasts running down Main Street. And then it hits him that she’s now dead, and he starts sobbing. This kind of head-hopping made me feel like I was part of the town, rather than attached to only one or two characters. And when the town unravels completely, it felt like my hometown that was being destroyed.
And it’s probably for the best that we’re not dependent on only one or two characters to weave this story, because there are multiple deaths and disappearances. No character is safe and that’s how I like my horror novels.
There’s magic and Voodoo, but its set as realistic as possible. We find out that the drought is caused by a curse last unleashed fifty years ago and only ended after the deaths of several children. Gypsies were blamed and punished. This time around a new scapegoat is chosen, and it is a very unlikely choice.
I have few complaints about this book. I nearly gave it full stars. One problem was that in two chapters near the end the quotations aren’t properly used during Narried’s monologues. There are open quotations and no end quotations, leaving me a little confused to how much of certain sections were narration or dialogue. It’s a minor issue that I’m sure will be fixed in later editions. Most of the novel is polished grammatically speaking, so do NOT pass on the novel just for that.
The other issue I had is the ending. Granted, I’m typically disappointed in endings in horror novels. And horror movies for that matter. The ending felt “cheesy” to me. Looking back, it makes sense how it ended. All elements of the novel led up to that particular ending. I just wish that it was…well, I can’t figure out how to explain without spoilers, so I’ll end it there.
Overall, this is a great horror novel. The atmosphere and setup is amazingly crafted. Like I said, this nearly hit 5 stars. Patricia Fulton is definitely a horror novelist to watch. I’ll definitely check out her next book.