Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Those Across the River

There's this thing that happens to me sometimes, when I'm reading. I get really into the story. This other world. And if I'm really entranced, somewhere toward the middle my pace picks up and I fly through the pages and I actually literally cannot stop reading until the climax and the resolution and the bittersweet end. And there's something so final and poignant about reading the last page down to the last word down to the very last punctuation, and then the back cover pulls in and (if this has happened to you, then you know the exact soft, yielding sound that follows), it's done. And there's this strange feeling of accomplishment, because you reached the end. And a sense of loss because it's over. And sometimes, as is the case with the book I just finished reading, there's confusion. I'm conflicted.

The book, if you're curious, is Those Across The River, by Christopher Buehlman, and I very much liked it. The prose, I think, is quite beautiful. Old fashioned, but I think that's really what worked for me. It's poetic, in many ways, written as a period piece, set in the 1930s—think Southern Gothic Horror—so it just feels unlike a lot of the current fiction I read. 
And here I am, finished with this very engaging story with such a strong protagonist, with such an interesting voice as a first-person narrative, and I liked the story, but I'm not sure I enjoyed it. No, that's not quite right. I'm not sure it was fun. But I couldn't stop reading it, and I think that I did enjoy it, but I'm not sure that I'm satisfied. And I'm also not sure that 'satisfied' is exactly what I mean, either. Because I didn't feel dissatisfied with the outcome, but I was not happy at the end.

I was about two thirds finished when I picked it up last night, and I intended on reading a few chapters before bed. As it turned out, I kept turning pages, totally engulfed as things for the protagonist, my guide through this story, kept spiraling, and before I knew it, it was just after one in the morning and it was over.

I'm not sure I realized how invested I was in all these charming-in-their-own-way people residing in this small southern town until I had to say goodbye. Sure, I can always open it up and read it again, but there's something magical about the first read-through. Everything is new, you don't know what's coming next, and you can't wait to find out. A second read can be just as telling, but in different ways, but there's nothing quite like reading a good book for the first time. And this one has stuck with me, I don't think I've actually put it out of my mind since I finished it.

I don't know how that sits as a book review, but I will say this—if you like horror at all, and imagery, and secrets, and things that go bump in the night, and shadows that lurk deep in the woods, read this book.

That is all.

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