T. Kingfisher understands the desperate need among the anxious for vibes and aesthetics but no Super Bad Things in horror. Between this book and WHAT MOVES THE DEAD, I ended up both charmed, amused, and scared out of my pants, but both had satisfying endings that were bittersweet (bonus in this one: the dog doesn't die). I think people reading this expecting, I dunno, Stephen King, might be mad, but man, what an amazing story. Apparently it's a sort of expansion/homage to Arthur Machen's "The White People." I've never read that story but I'm sure the author did a great job (God bless the public domain).
This story is about a woman named Mouse who is tasked with cleaning out her grandmother's house when she dies. But her grandmother was a hoarder-- and her step-grandfather was apparently harboring some pretty insane delusions about people he calls "the twisted ones." Mouse finds a journal in his bedroom detailing some of his ramblings, with references to a manuscript and something he calls The Green Book. The more she reads, the weirder it gets. But then Mouse starts to see things in the wood: creatures that shouldn't exist and places that should be there. And then she starts to wonder if maybe her step-grandfather wasn't really delusional after all.
I don't want to say anything else because some people are out there giving way too many spoilers in their reviews and less is definitely more, but I LOVED this book. I loved Bongo the Hound. I loved the people Mouse encounters who help her on her journey: Enid the Goth barista, Foxy the hippie, and Tomas and Skip, people living at the commune (one of them is bipolar and the rep is so casual). I loved how creative and creepy this world that the author built felt. I've seen people calling it folk horror and after thinking about this, apparently that's the kind of horror I like. Cozy horror with vibes. If you enjoyed this experience, books with similar themes are YOU LET ME IN, THE CHINA GARDEN, and THE STRANGER. I loved all of these books so apparently creepy rocks and creepy trees are my thing. Go figure. Either way, T. Kingfisher is the only person out there who I trust to scare me properly and politely.
The only reason this isn't getting a full five stars is because I wanted to find out what was really going on with the grandmother and get more closure with the book. I feel like a lot of things were left to the reader's imagination or whatever, and sometimes that feels like cheating. I'm not mad, though.
4 to 4.5 out of 5 stars