I’ve read multiple books by this author and each one is somehow so vastly different from the one before it that they could have been written by a totally different author.
Other books have been surreal, mysterious, even hilarious at points. This one is brutal.
It’s bad enough to imagine a family of four needing to huddle together in a cramped, windowless bathroom during a tornado warning. That scenario, in and of itself, is sufficient to serve as horror. When the father is a mean-spirited alcoholic, things get less pleasant. Now, imagine a tree falling through the roof and blocking the only exit from that bathroom, the door only opening enough to slip an arm through the gap as rain and wind blow through what once was a bedroom.
And this is only the beginning.
Max Booth III manages to obscure the lines between past and present as well as delusion and reality to the extent that the latter half of the novella becomes a dizzying blur. Claustrophobic discomfort, occultism, and familial tension blend together until, like the characters, you begin to forget how long you’ve been there with them. Looking back, I’m still uncertain just how long these people are trapped in that bathroom, but it’s surely a week or two. The fragmentary glimpses of the world outside of the bathroom itself are enticing and they leave you simultaneously wanting to see it for yourself and turn away and remain where it’s safe (relatively).
This novella is not for the overly sensitive or the squeamish, because there are some aspects of it that are sure to make a lot of readers uncomfortable…but it is so excellent.
Since originally writing this review of the novella in May of 2020, the author has adapted it to a screenplay that has since been made into a major motion picture, currently in post-production.