Teenage Landscape

I recently read Chris Barzak’s debut novel, One for Sorrow

I enjoyed it immensely. It was an old-fashioned ghost story, in the sense that it was about a haunting. And in the sense that parts of that haunting were downright oogy. 

The part that really captured me was the landscape that felt exactly like when I was fifteen. It often seems to me that books (and movies) are set in one of 3 places: the city, where everyone is hip and hard and fast and now now now; the suburbs, where everyone is rich and white and label-proud; or the country (aka Rural America), a quiet land of deer hunting, corn fields, overalls and poverty.

But there’s a great in-between, and it’s called rural suburbia. Ranches, split levels, and faux cape-cods set down in the middle of cow fields. The kids who live there are probably white, but they aren’t rich. They aren’t farmers. They don’t know the names of all the trees, of the kinds of rock, or when to plant a watermelon. They know much more about how to get the high score, and which creepy old dude makes a few bucks selling ciggies and booze to 13-year-olds. But–

And here’s the but–the trees are all around. There’s only so much cable you can watch at 2am in July. And then you’re out in the woods behind your house with a cigarette lighter and a pointy stick, and it’s you and the trees and the bugs and the dark. You’re dreaming of the city, of when you can get away to somewhere real, but right now the natural world has you in its arms, and it’s not letting go.

Free goose bumps

As a Halloween treat, Juno Books is offering a free download of five ghost stories by women.

  • Let Loose, by Mary Cholmondeley (1890)
  • The Striding-Place, by Gertrude Atherton (1896)
  • The Lost Ghost, by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman (1903)
  • Kerfol, by Edith Wharton (1916)
  • Spunk, by Zora Neale Hurston (1925)

I admit that I haven’t heard of the first three authors, but am completely convinced that Edith Wharton would write a killer ghost story, and I’m very interested to see Hurston’s. Happy reading!