(A double disclosure: The author provided me with an electronic copy of the novel for review purposes. And Dark Continents Publishing, of which I am a director, published the author’s short story collection “A Gentle Hell”.)
As Lily struggles with her schizophrenic mother’s decline into insanity, the death of her somnambulist childhood love, and her own painful, disturbed adolescence, she must face the strange girl that haunts her.
Yet something is chasing her that is much more dangerous.
A darkly surreal, drug-coated romance, We are Wormwood tells an inhuman love story, and the transformation that results from affection among monsters.
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In “We Are Wormwood,” Autumn Christian touches on some themes from her previous works, “A Gentle Hell” and “The Crooked God Machine”. They include insanity and the criteria by which it is defined, and the inability of flawed parents to protect their offspring from a hostile world. It’s a disturbing novel that relies on surreal imagery and a pervading sense of nihilism to provide the horror.
Lily’s world is at once filled with dizzyingly imaginative vistas of madness, and relentlessly claustrophobic in its bleakness. At times I just wanted to claw my way out of the novel and breathe, which is, I imagine, much how Lily felt about her life. The parts that I found most compelling were told by outsiders looking in – the bonus short story at the end told from Phaedra’s perspective, the all-too-brief view through an unnamed driver’s eyes after picking up a hitchhiking Lily, and the beginning, which is told by the not-yet-corrupted child Lily and which felt the most reliable of all the facets of Lily’s narration.
You’ll read this phrase often in reviews of Autumn’s work – “This is not for everyone.” (but then, what is?) If you want a happy ending, fluffy bunnies (or fluffy anything) that do not suffer some gruesome fate, or a light, disposable and undemanding read, then step away from the e-reader now. If you want lush and beautifully crafted prose, a story that will challenge what you think you know or believe, a story that might even make you a little ill (but never in a gratuitous way), then you might just have found your new favourite author.
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