by Betsy Hearne
Hauntings is a collection of stories about just that, but in ways that I never expected. Based on a cursory glance at the book's eerie cover, I expected straightforward ghost stories, although now, as I look back, there are hints to what hides inside.
Hearne's creation is split into three distinct sections. The first is devoted almost exclusively to retellings of Irish myth. Selkies, spectres and incarnations of Death abound, stealing into homes, surprising unassuming women and sending brave lads on adventures.
Section two is largely about American teens "haunted" by a number of issues. Whether suffering at the hands of divorce, drug use or an impending psychotic break, the teens navigate those issues that are often more haunting and affecting than the average ghost story.
And the final section, and definitely the strangest, contains only two stories. One about God and his (actually, her) dog and the other about a spectral dog that terrorizes Satan. Yeah, I told you they were weird. Oddly humorous, too.
Hearne's collection flew in the face of almost every one of the assumptions I attached to this book. That's not the say that the stories lacked, in fact, they were strikingly written. A boy's time spent alone in the woods marveling at a stand of trees surpassed even the eeriest fireside tale. A stuffed crow come alive only in the mind of the teen owner could rival the exorcist for its creepiness. Certainly this absorbing writing style and the unique choice of plots is the result of a very talented writer, and, as it turns out, a scholar of children's literature from the University of Illinois. I suppose knowing that Hearne is one of my children's lit kindred makes me love her all the more, but the stories account for at least 80% of my fascination.
While I was slightly jarred by the seeming disconnectedness of the sections in Hauntings, in the end the craftsmanship of the writing overcame any doubts I might've had.
In other news, I'd like to introduce my two friends, Little Red and Midnight. Otherwise known as my poppets, "the Red and the Black." Whahahahaha. There's nothing like a Stendhal joke.
The girls are lounging with my next two R.I.P. reads...Frankenstein, and The Borden Tragedy, a graphic novel about Lizzie's dastardly deeds.