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Monday, February 18, 2013
Book Review: American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson Bennett
Author: Robert Jackson Bennett
Source: From NetGalley
Buy it here: Amazon | Book Depository
For more information visit Robert Jackson Bennett's website
Reviewed by: Beth
When Mona’s estranged father dies, she goes to settle his estate. She discovers that she has inherited her mother’s old house in Wink, New Mexico. Her mother died when Mona was really young. She sets off to Wink to see the house, and hopefully discover more of her mother’s past. Wink seems to be locked in a kind of 1960s perfection. There are secrets and rules to living in Wink. The citizens follow these strict rules. Mona starts to discover her mother’s past, but what she discovers is very different than she imagined it might be.
I have never read a book quite like American Elsewhere. The synopsis says it’s an American Supernatural novel. I had no idea that translated to horror, but maybe I should’ve. While it wasn’t what I was expecting, I was blown away by it. The first half of the book I spent going, ‘what is this!?’ The central story revolves around Mona and Wink, but mainly Wink. Its many denizens are peculiar, to say the least, and the secrets laying behind every face in Wink are worth discovering. I can’t say what Wink is, or why it is, that would be the biggest spoiler ever. In fact, I was extremely surprised with how Wink reveals itself.
I say this is horror, and it kind of is. Some of the scenes are frightening and gruesome. I personally wasn’t frightened, but if I were younger I wouldn’t be surprised to dream of this spooky stuff. When I say horror, I don’t mean slasher-flick or anything like that. In fact the central story is discovering a mystery. It’s an easy book to slide into. Bennett’s prose for the most part, though uncomplicated, takes readers to some surprising places. There are a lot of abstract ideas that are easy to understand with little difficulty, though when I say understand, I mean understand in the context of the story.
It also has heart. Mona is a broken character, but she isn’t the only one. There are many more broken characters in the novel, each seeming to echo the other. The story is third person, mostly limited to whoever the chapter is centered on, mostly Mona. She isn’t the easiest character in the world, she often responds with anger to anything she doesn’t understand. A logical person might turn and run, or ask more questions. These were my only complaints in the story overall. Her character made me frustrated more than once, and while I am not accusing her of being dense, I do think she should’ve caught on a little faster.
American Elsewhere is very fantastic. The images it inspires are both beautiful and gruesome. This is the first novel I’ve read by Bennett, but it won’t be the last. Now, what kind of readers do I recommend it to? This isn’t a romance, far from it, but it’s something worth picking up. I can see people comparing it to Stephen King, but in my opinion, I think it’s richer in many ways than a King novel. Some might say Lovecraft, and I can see that, but it has a lot more to it. This might be because while there is something awful at the center of this story, it isn’t just about a big bad anything. Bottom line is that I enjoyed it. If any of this has intrigued you, you might also like it.