Every Woman Knows This by Laurel Hightower
Death Knell Press (March 2023)
189 pages; $14.98 paperback; $4.49 e-book
Reviewed by Anton Cancre
Every Woman Knows This is a very personal, very pointed collection of stories that reflect Laurel Hightower’s experience of the world as a woman. Experiences that are common enough she can comfortably state that commonality in the title (and yes, she is explicit in her belief that this stands for all women, so please step aside with any gender essentialism). These stories hit on everything from dealing with stalkers to the perils of motherhood to always having to clean up after some manchild that never listens to reason and climbs down into an abandoned submarine just to poke around for a bit BECAUSE OF COURSE HE DID, and every one of them hits right in the gut.
Despite, or likely because of, the thematic focus, these yarns are all about well-developed characters and the expression of their experiences. These are characters who are experiencing things, even when in a metaphorical sense, that too many people have to deal with waaay too damn often, and Laurel Hightower wants you to be as angry and sad about that as she is. This collection works precisely because of how well she has honed the individual stories. They feel real. Solid and honest. There is no preaching from the mount here; Laurel just grabs you by the scruff of your neck and shoves your face into it.
And that’s not even getting into the interior illustrations by Red Lagoe. Dang, do I love it when there are illustrations. They add a different angle, a reinterpretation of the experience through other eyes and hands, that clicks so well with me.
Every Woman Knows This is powerful as hell, only significantly hotter. I cannot recommend enough. Even though “Distress Call” had me yelling loudly in bed. Flippin’ dark, cold, claustrophobic anxiety-inducing buttface of a story that I abjectly enjoyed.