A year of isolation and anxiety has left many of us struggling, and these two excellent books serve as tonics for troubled souls.
Sometimes, we sit in our little reading nooks, falling deeper and deeper into ourselves. We say we’re fine, as we look for reasons why we’re not. And for whatever reason, during these periods, we find comfort in reading things that evoke dread. Not to feel worse, not to seek validation for our feelings, but to just feel seen and know our emotions are shared. And for those feeling that way, that need that story, here are two books that may give you what you seek.
*Trigger warning for both books. They contain sensitive subject matter, such as suicide and miscarriage.*
1. Come Forth in Thaw (Jayson Robert Ducharme)
When the sun goes down, the specters of the tormented emerge. As Eleanor Jackson searches for her troubled son, she will come to discover so much more than what she thought.
As one can tell from the book cover, this is a story that will cover a sensitive topic. Creating a fictional forest that’s similar to Aokigahara, more famously known as Japan’s Suicide Forest, Ducharme unfolds a story around a difficult and painful subject. However, he does not do so with an exploitive hand. The author creates and weaves a story with such sincerity that the words ache through the page.
Focused on a mother whose troubled son has gone to this forest with a singular purpose, we are given the emotional turmoil that would wreck any parent who knew the possibility of what may become of their child. As the story unfolds into something far more complex and sinister, the fantastical elements begin to come to life — creating something that is equal parts terrifying and oddly beautiful.
It is through the prose that we get the full hit of what the author is trying to accomplish.
Though a short novella, Ducharme does a wonderful job setting us into the shoes of Eleanor Jackson. He perfectly executes writing Eleanor Jackson’s emotions and every unwinding mental and emotional state. The reader is put there in her shoes, feeling the anxiety, the selfless love for her son, and the strength to keep on fighting past all the obstacles and frights that come her way.
Through every twist and turn, the reader will find themselves reeling from the emotions held within the book.
2. Ungodly (Braedon Riddick)
The townspeople always sensed an intangible wrongness on the mountain…even before the evil enigma was afoot.
There’s something comforting about a story that is so certain and relaxed in what it is and where it’s going, that everything just simply fits.
Braedon Riddick sets up a mystery within Calisade Mountain College, using a wide cast of characters to ask somewhat philosophical questions in an intelligent and realistic manner. The author asks a lot of questions about humanity through this flawed assembly of varied characters. And while the questions come and go, you can feel the narrative as a whole reaching for an answer.
While there is a large group of people to follow, the spotlight is set on Amanda Baker. A witness to an apparent suicide, she is dragged feet first into the spreading lunacy in the town. She becomes a conduit for certain talking points, but Riddick does not stop with her when touching on other societal issues. It is in these moments where both the main players as well as the supporting cast become fully realized characters. We don’t get any cliché characters or mustache-twirling villains. Rather, every character feels grounded in a way that makes their truly evil moments that much scarier.
Riddick accomplishes this through prose that is seamless in its grand flourishes of detail and insight, with a rushed agency to keep the story from meandering.
The writing might fit alongside those of mainstream attention, creating a thrill ride that can still manage to pack a punch to the heart.
As we sit in our reading nooks — buried under several layers of blankets, with a book in hand — hopefully, we can find ourselves on the path to feeling better. Perhaps with a story that has seen us, that knows our pain, we can feel lighter, and our hearts can make their way from the pit of our stomachs and back up into our chests.
If you or anyone you know is in need of help, please do not be afraid to seek it out. Below are a few resources for anyone needing support.