Review: Spirits by Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel

Spirits by Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel
Haverhill House Publishing (July 22, 2019)
210 pages; $30 hardcover; $7.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms

Spirits come in many forms, and some say that those in the liquid form can lead to those of the demonic sort. Newcomer Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel rocks this debut that not only tackles but beats the everloving snot out of alcoholism. This is a novel that delves into the horrors that can come out of falling prey to a crippling disease that affects so many.

Tori Garrett is one of those suffering from the bottle, living every day under the specter of drinking or recovering from a rough day or night. She’s particularly haunted by an act that destroyed most of her life. She struck and killed a teenage girl with her car, an act that sunk her to the bottom of every bottle, every glass she could find. She lost everything: job, friends, and her life. She struggles to get through the next day.

The mother of the victim, Carla Perez, seeks to make Tori’s life a living hell for killing her daughter. What she does to strike back is both horrifying in a few ways, and utterly affecting to any parent. Once Tori hits rock bottom, she travels to picturesque Cape May, New Jersey, to hide and find herself at a favorite place of hers, the Seaside House Bed and Breakfast. There, a kind woman attempts to bond with her while healing from her tragedies. They both encounter a fourth character in the story, Chris Silver, another damaged soul who is dead-set on putting Tori on the path to redemption in an attempt to fix himself.

Together, this odd group of people fight the seemingly un-winnable battle that is all too real—while the spirits of the supernatural sort begin to creep in and curl the edges of reality for all of them. Their battle brings to mind the best groups in horror history (ala It, Ghost Story, and Strangers). It’s that powerful.

Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel has penned a fine debut to enter the horror field, a debut that will hit audiences hard—and it should. Her writing is smooth, like an aged Scotch that burns so well as it scorches the throat, while blurring the real world from the book he or she is reading.

This is definitely horror but could hold up just as well as a personal foray into the relationships that exist between friends and strangers, and how the disease can destroy just as much as the demons that we admit exist. It might draw some comparisons to The Shining, but it’s strong enough to be different and stand on its own as something worthy.

Haverhill House has rushed out of the gate and has found a few new stars (Stoker finalist Tony Tremblay shook the horror world last year with The Moore House), and they keep pushing the envelope.

A winner and recommended.

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