Seeing Things by Sonora Taylor is one hell of a creepy offering, one that is full of dread and menace but one which is also intrinsically beautiful in the macabre – this in part is due to the masterful storytelling one comes to expect from Taylor. Given her beautifully crafted vision that was Little Paranoias I went into this offering expecting great things, and I was rewarded for my persistence in wanting to read everything Sonora Taylor puts out.
I also need to offer some thanks here to Kevin (AKA Well Read Beard) who is the lead cheerleader in the Sonora Taylor fan club and who without I might not have discovered Sonora Taylor… just yet, of course she wouldn’t have stayed off my radar for long becuase brilliance always rises to the surface, but thanks to Well Read Beard’s support of the indie horror scene – this discovery came earlier than I could have hoped and for that I’m immeasurably thankful.
What you are guaranteed with Sonora Taylor is that the writing will be on point, that the prose will be electric, like those rumbles you hear before an electrical storm that are so often followed by thunder and lightning – they say lightning rarely strikes the same place twice, but Taylor brings the lightning again and again wielding it like some Norse Goddess – and it’s a mouth watering prospect that there are still more of her works that I need to consume. So putting away what one expects (prose that is like a lightening bolt) we are also always (whether long or short fiction) treated to a deep, meaningful and gripping story and this can be said for Seeing Things.
The books hold on the reader pretty much starts before even opening the book. The creepy cover offers a glimpse at something that is there, but isn’t there too. I’d not noticed, or maybe I did, but thought it was a finger smudge or something on the cover, but when I got to the end of the book I took a photo on my phone of the cover and uploaded it to Twitter (something I do when I finish a book) and staring back at me from the cover was a freakish apparition from the locker on the cover. Then when I checked out the cover of the book, it wasn’t there? It had vanished, but others commented on seeing it too, others said that they’d never seen it before as well – is this some strange apparition, is Sonora Taylor playing tricks on us with disappearing ink? Am I seeing dead people? Or is this book haunted?
So on with the book review…
Abby Gillman has discovered that with growing up, there comes a lot of blood. But nothing prepares her for the trail of blood she sees in the hallway after class – or the ghost she finds crammed inside an abandoned locker.
‘No one believes Abby, of course. She’s only seeing things. As much as Abby wants to be believed, what she wants more is to know why she can suddenly see the dead. Unfortunately, they won’t tell her. In fact, none of them will speak to her. At all.’
Yes, I can guess what you’re thinking ‘I see dead people!‘ it’s one of the most quoted lines from a film – The Sixth Sense right? Well you’re wrong, this is not a copy of that idea, Taylor has not stolen the components of this and created a cheep knockoff of that idea from M. Night Shyamalan – Taylor has instead written a brilliant and utterly beguiling ghost story, one that shares some of the conventions you might find in true crime, suspense and supernatural literature but above all else Taylor has crafted a truly chilling and beguiling horror novel!
Abby Gillman can see the dead, but they don’t want her to. Her visions start with a girl who is trapped inside a locker at school, and once this vision comes to pass and she realises that those around her can’t see it, she suddenly realises that she is on her own and some of the people she’s seen around school or the neighbourhood are also dead people. Her teachers and parents put it down to a young girl becoming a woman, that she’s just going through a phase, so Abby is left with trying to process the most disturbing visions whilst everyone else thinks shes crazy.
The story is almost three separate narratives (Abby and the girl in the locker, her uncle and a relationship he had with a student and the island off the beach where she spends some of her summer with her uncle where a murder / suicide incident happened) and Taylor weaves all three of these threads masterfully and brings these diverging stories back with great skill to provide a powerful conclusion where all loose ends are tied up and one can’t help but appreciate the skill and writing chops on show. It brings to mind the diverging narrative work of Donald Ray Pollock and Patrick deWitt, how many things are going on but we see by the journeys end how all of these things are connected and again this deft skill of narrative work highlights what a special talent Sonora Taylor is in the writing / horror community.
Abby goes to stay with her uncle at the beach, and once she is here with Uncle Keith for me is when the story kicks on from a good story to a bloody brilliant one. We soon discover that the incident in the locker is not just an isolated incident, Abby sees more dead people, there is mystery and dread, there are secrets and discoveries, and there is a lot of blood. Taylor has us second guessing from the outset, and this doesn’t let up throughout the whole book, we are in essence ‘seeing things’, but we’re seeing them when Taylor wants us to, her grip on the story and the intelligence of her writing and narrative direction hold us hostage to her storytelling and we can’t help but take the hits when they are thrown in our faces.
The work done around the islands and its macabre history and how this feeds into the narrative on show is brilliant executed and adds much needed weight to the story, the plot and behind the punches that Taylor delivers.
Seeing Things is a stunning book, I absolutely loved Little Paranoias but this is something very very special! Sonora Taylor shows how great a storyteller she is with a book that will have you second guessing your every move, which will have you seeing things, seeing connections that might or might not be there. Seeing Things is a delicately crafted tale of the ties that bind and the horrors that last, a coming of age tale that is as creepy as it is unsettling and as beguiling as it is masterful!
Seeing Things is available here.
Sonora Taylor is the award-winning author of Little Paranoias: Stories, Without Condition, The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales, Please Give, and Wither and Other Stories. Her short stories have appeared in multiple publications, including Camden Park Press’s Quoth the Raven, Kandisha Press’s Women of Horror Vol. 2: Graveyard Smash, The Sirens Call, Frozen Wavelets, Mercurial Stories, Tales to Terrify, and the Ladies of Horror fiction podcast. Her latest book, Seeing Things, is now available on Amazon. She lives in Arlington, Virginia, with her husband.
You can read our review of Little Paranoias here.
Reviewed by Ross Jeffery
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