Book Response: "The Inconsolables" by Michael Wehunt
"The Inconsolables" by Michael Wehunt
Other Books I Enjoyed by This Author: Greener Pastures, Everything Is Beautiful and Nothing Bad Can Ever Happen Here, The Tired Sounds, A Wake
Release Date: June 20th, 2023
BISAC Categories: Horror - General Occult & Supernatural
Sub-Genre/Themes: Weird, speculative, bleak, haunting, disturbing, death and dying, relationships, paranormal phenomena, psychological, anxiety, dread, family dynamics & drama, marriage, supernatural occurrences, human monsters, science fiction, love & kindness
Writing Style: lyrical, melancholy, atmospheric, unexpected, emotional
What You Need to Know: This book is fully illustrated by the legendary illustrator of creepy ghouls and monsters, Trevor Henderson. A menacing enhancement to the already gloomy and goosebump-inducing subject matter of the stories themselves. It’s exciting to look forward to turning the page to experience the next horrific vision. I recommend not flipping ahead to look at all of them, but rather savoring each one as they come up in their designated place between the pages. I also recommend reading the stories in order. You know how some albums tell a complete story if you listen to each track one right after the other–no skips? The Inconsolables is an album you listen to all the way through–the songs are best enjoyed in order.
My Reading Experience
Now an adult, Fulton thinks back on how he used to imagine vampires in his everyday life. A strangely comforting habit of squeezing his eyes shut to conjure the presence of a vampire. This habit helped him process the painful emotions after the death of his brother. When Fulton’s wife grows distant and their marriage cools, he turns back to vampires.
This story is a great opener to the collection and a little love letter to horror fans. An homage to vampire fiction; the evolution of bloodsucking lore from Bram Stoker’s Dracula to Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. It’s also a nod to Wehunt’s horror fiction colleagues…you’ll see. I marveled at the way Wehunt can turn a phrase. I read certain sentences over and over because of the deliberate and interesting word choices. It was so good to be back in a Wehunt collection of short stories after loving Greener Pastures so much.
The trees in the neighborhood began to turn the vivid colors of death. The weather began to lose its warm blood.
isn’t it strange how a sentence in a book can reach out through the page and grab your heart? Claudette is an elderly woman in a facility, looking out the window when she notices some strange activity going on outside in the alleyway. She reflects on how she came to the senior apartments.
The narrative reads, ...her daughter put a shockingly small portion of her mother’s life in boxes…
I immediately thought of my grandmother’s little assisted living apartment and how so little of the contents of her house were represented in it. Almost like a hotel room but with a few recognizable things from the past. Wehunt is so good at those small details.
Later, Claudette ...struggled up from the chair and shuffled toward the bed where her pain pills were, her bones full of gravity.
Her bones full of gravity.
A story full of little details.
"Caring For A Stray Dog (Metaphors)"
Big hug for this one. Deep breath. I feel like a little trigger warning is in order. If your family or a family you know has been impacted by a school shooting, this might be a difficult story to read. If you’ve lost a child or a loved one recently, this could be a difficult read.
I find that the horrors of living in this world are, sometimes, too big for me to handle, emotionally. A story like this one helps me process my feelings in a way that feels gentle and soothing. Horror is cathartic for me.
I had tears in my eyes while I read; blinking a lot to keep the words from blurring. We all know that despair can come for us at any time. It’s not the fear of the unknown I worry about, it’s the fear of what I do know…that grief could come and swallow me up whole. That I could lose a loved one and in the wake of that kind of devastation, I could lose everything. This story unlocked that drawer of my heart I keep shut.
He and his wife, the inconsolable, grasping ahead in their separate throes of worship.
"The Pine Arch Collection"
Listen. The first time I read this story, I did this involuntary thing with my eyes where I would lightly skim over certain details. Because they were scary. This time, the second time, to refresh my memory for this review, I read every word and I am not okay. What is it about documentary-style horror? Found footage?
And Wehunt is the best there is at this. From Greener Pastures, the story, "October Film Haunt: Under The House" ties into this one and it doesn’t stop there, because as per a recent announcement, a new novel called, The October Film Haunt—pitched as Scream meets Hereditary—is coming from St. Martin's press. Haunt is about a cult film shrouded in urban legend, a fan group's viral post about the movie that results in the gruesome death of a teenager, and a disgraced single mother's attempts to make amends and rebuild her life a decade later, until a mysterious VHS tape appears in her mailbox, hinting at a sequel that threatens everything. I can’t wait for Wehunt's debut novel! Maybe we’ll get a creepy movie out of this too.
"The Tired Sounds. A Wake"
So, I have a fun story about this story. Originally, this was ‘sold separately’ from Dim Shores in a very limited run of 200 copies. I managed to get my hands on one (thanks, Michael) and when I posted it on #bookstagram, it created a bit of a fuss. Everybody wanted it. Re-reading my review, I feel I need to share this part because it still holds true and is even more relevant now after reading so much more of Wehunt’s work,
I read one description in here about grapefruit with my mouth gaped open like a big, stupid fish because how did he *do* that?? How did he find the exact thing to say about grapefruit? Like he crawled into my head and extracted some random thought I had like several years ago...about GRAPEFRUIT. I don't know. As I said, this writing is oddly personal.
"A Heart Arrhythmia Creeping Into A Dark Room"
This story is even more meta now: He even re-printed it in his second collection, The Inconsolables…
I love when the author can break down that wall between us and have some fun with it.
How will my monster fit into this world? I must assemble it, give it sinews and lungs, and something like its own heart, and it will give me a story.
"The Teeth of America"
First, the illustration. It’s safe to say, Trevor Henderson has a finger on the pulse of our fears. Second, This story. This all too real, modern, folk horror story.
The Teeth of America Cult.
Without getting too far off into the weeds of my own, personal relationship with the subject matter of this story, let me just say there were moments in the last few years when I felt the most scared in my life. Wehunt unpacks it all.
I saw it everywhere. It clouded the air. It tasted like an ignored power. The hate flowing from mouths, breaking the hearts and even the minds of those who wanted the truth to be truth and kindness to be kindness.
This is a new demonology. These are the teeth of America.
Like a living horror story with no end.
"It Takes Slow Sips"
Here’s a tip: If you get any hand-delivered mail from Pine Arch Research, do NOT engage. Maybe go through the spam folder of your email account and look for anything from firstname.lastname@example.org. if you see something, delete it. Do NOT engage.
"Is There Human Kindness Still In The World?"
This story is about love. An absorbing kind of love between two people and how inside that intimate space they have created together, there is a shared hope for the future; promises. But sometimes, our circumstances don’t support the plans we’ve made and everything changes.
Jessie’s story of transformation after the death of Rob, after the death of their future together, made my heart ache. Wehunt’s storytelling is pitch-perfect here. Through the careful arrangement of words on a page, I was drawn into a relationship with Jessie. I’m sharing in her grief, her pain and suffering, and all the fear. Me. Personally. I’m there with her through everything. When she visits a rest stop and encounters a man who wants to do bad things to her, he grabs her wrist and it’s me that gasps. Jessie is the one caught off guard as she exits the restroom, but it’s me behind the page going through it with her. I honestly don’t know how to describe it. This particular reading experience was unlike the others.
I don’t know how writers do it.
Writing a story that so many different people will read, a huge audience, right? But somehow cause each reader to feel like they are the first. They are the target audience.
"Is There Human Kindness Still in The World" is a strangely intimate, personal story that sees you. I don’t know how else to put it. It pained me to leave Jessie behind to turn the page.
"An Ending (Ascent)"
Still father beyond, at a distance that was so recently impossible, abstract, God might glance down. What he thinks of this world, I cannot say, whether he will step down to at last join the kin he created in his flawed image, or to grind them underfoot out of plain weariness.
I thought this was the perfect way to end this collection. With a story about immortality, memories, and the nuances of joy and pain in the history of our lives. It’s such a Michael Wehunt way of leaving his readers. I hope the next short story collection comes quickly.
Michael Wehunt is one of my favorite, trusted guides navigating stories of grief and loss, sadness and regret. My reader’s heart left standing in Greener Pastures so eager to welcome that unique, familiar voice ushering me toward a new strange path twisting through Wehunt’s garden of eerie, weird, beautiful things—The Inconsolables; what a gift.
Comps: Please read Greener Pastures if not before this collection, afterward. These two collection make a pair. They go together. North American Lake Monsters by Nathan Ballingrud, Entropy in Bloom by Jeremy Robert Johnson, and Everything That's Underneath by Kristi DeMeester.
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