I grew up with ghost stories, passed down from my mother while sitting around a fire or simply hanging out and chatting after watching the X-files or Tales from the Darkside. I am sure that’s why I feel such a comfy, cozy connection to them. Admittedly, I warmed up quite a bit when I saw this anthology arrive in the mail.
Right off the bat, Sarah Hans kicks the door off the hinges with “The Cold Earth,” making it clear that this won’t be a simple collection of traditional drafty-old-mansion tales. We are placed square in the POV of our dear departed, a poor girl murdered by her ne’er do well husband, but it doesn’t devolve into the simplistic revenge story it so easily could have. Instead, we are shown a victim working to stop the cycle of violence and predation of the past, instead of simply exacting revenge for it.
From there, we get plenty of good, ghastly tales, but “What Happened at the Lake” takes the cake. The exploration of the grief and guilt that come with loss, especially the loss of a child, is not unusual in a ghost story. However, it is rarely done with such brutal, raw honesty, where the absence of the deceased builds the internal horror. We’re pulled in, inch by inch, to the morass of depression that has become this woman’s life. I made the mistake of reading this one while walking the dog and ended up weeping right there on the sidewalk.
You don’t get much of the lace-strewn Victorian gothic here, though Lynn Handy’s “Green Lady” pulls off the air of such tales while slyly subverting them, so fans of that style may be disappointed. However, for people that grew up with tiny, intimate yarns of people tied too tightly to their lost past, there’s plenty familiar to these spirits.