We Can Never Leave This Place by Eric LaRocca
Trepidatio Publishing (June 2022)
106 pages; $19.95 hardcover; $12.95 paperback; $5.95 e-book
Reviewed by Haley Newlin
In perhaps his bleakest, most grisly tale yet, Eric LaRocca challenges gothic horror’s most visceral and twisted minds, namely The Brothers Grimm.
We Can Never Leave This Place is a screeching, bloody curtain that will hang over readers from start to finish. On the first page, Mara says, “From baby teeth to virginity, to live is to regularly suffer loss,” and it’s here where LaRocca offers a hint of the bloodshed to come.
In the apocalyptic, depraved remains of the world, Mara fears men in gas masks carrying guns threatening to enter her home without her father present. But the men only come to share the news of a familial tragedy.
Lifeless eyes stare skyward as Mara’s mother rests her hand upon the limp, blood-buttered corpse in the bathtub, the other on her swollen stomach.
“Don’t you love [him]?” she shouts. Mara, desperate to please her mother, swallows her discomfort and kisses the corpse, wishing it sweet dreams. She cleans it and repeats the ingenuine affection each night. But that doesn’t stop her mother’s accusations — “He died because he was trying to get away from you” — or her impending hatred of her daughter. They’d lost their bond, or whatever you’d call their tolerance for one another and sense of safety.
Enter a cunning spider named Rake who claims to know Mara’s father, whom he promised to protect his family in exchange for “a very modest compensation” — food. He eats days of rations in one sitting, only to call upon more human-sized insects to take residency in the home. The reveal of Rake’s grotesque affiliates, their destruction, and devastation packs We Can Never Leave This Place with a gut-wrenching blow to readers that bruises and welts long after reading.
This skin-crawling dark fable, delivered in skillful melancholic and poetic prose, is a cloud of black flies readers will tear apart like gristle from the bone, only to realize they’re, yet again, bewitched by the unfurling fangs of LaRocca’s writing.
*Editor’s Note: Check out our recent interview with Eric LaRocca!