Everything is Beautiful and Nothing Bad Can Ever Happen Here by Michael Wehunt
Nightscape Press (September 2019)
78 pages; $30 paperback
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann
Late at night, in the comfort of my cozy bed with my husband slightly snoring next to me, I read stories about werewolves, monsters or bad things happening to people when they’re camping. I can rest easy before sleep knowing I can leave all those made-up nightmares in the pages of the books on my nightstand (I don’t camp or go outdoors so, no real threat there).
For me, the most terrifying horror stories are the ones that hit close to home. The subject matter is a little too believable or probable.
“This could happen.”
Michael Wehunt’s novella is set in the fictional town Fontaine Falls, North Carolina. A resident named Bea Holcombe lives the American Dream—she and her husband are raising their family in a quaint, idyllic town in the perfect neighborhood. They attend church, they have friends, everything is great.
Except, as a big fan of Michael Wehunt’s storytelling, I already know something bad will definitely happen here. (See the title of this novella? Clue number one).
Here is where I’m going to ask you to trust your Mother Horror. First, I’m going to recommend you do not read other reviews of this novella until after you’ve finished. I’ve read a few and they spoil some readers’ discovery for you; this story is best if you go in totally blind. Which leads me to my next recommendation: I saw Michael Wehunt post a link to preorder this Charitable Chapbook and I didn’t even blink—nor did I read the synopsis. There are some authors who can put anything out and I will buy it. Wehunt is one of them. After reading the synopsis, I suggest saving that until after you read it as well. Again, trust me. Dive in with no knowledge of what you’re getting into.
My last push is for you to hurry up and get one of these before they’re gone. It’s thirty dollars which is a steep price for a chapbook but this is worth every penny and then some:
Charitable Chapbooks by Nightscape Press help authors use their writing to generate funds for charity. So buying this novella directly supports the charity Michael Wehunt chose: The Southern Poverty Law Center.
The cover of this book was designed by the instantly recognizable talent of Don Noble. The interior illustrations peppered throughout are by Luke Spooner, a name horror fans should already know, and let me say—those alone are worth the price of admission.
So all of those reasons are just heaping on the awesomeness because let me just say, this story is everything. It’s hard for me to say with words how pleasurable it is to navigate through a narrative as controlled and intentional as this one is—it’s as though Wehunt wears many hats, not just a writer, but also an architect who has carefully planned every detail. He’s like a psychologist who knows the human mind with all its twists and turns. He can wear the hats that so many of us wear; mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, citizens of the United States who feel helpless to combat this current political climate.
Everything is Beautiful and Nothing Bad Can Ever Happen Here resonated with me on an intimate, personal level. My hometown could be Fontaine Falls. “It’s the perfect place to grow up; raise a family; retire. It’s safe. It’s untainted by all the bad things that happen everywhere else.”
I lived there for forty years and it’s dangerous. It’s a bubble. It has the appearance of being “safe” but it’s a breeding ground for all the same ugliness that’s everywhere else, it’s just not as exposed. It’s buried deep and hidden in the hearts of the residents so that your neighbors can’t even see it.
“This is a ghost story” Bea Holcombe tells the reader. And it’s our ghost story. Michael Wehunt just gave it words so that it could haunt us forever, and I’m grateful for that.