There is nothing out there quite like this book.
LaRocca has exploded onto the scene with his debut novella Starving Ghosts In Every Thread and for me I couldn’t be happier for him and the reading / horror community because there is so much more this guy has to offer and I understand more coming soon for us to dig our teeth into.
I have to say that when I started this book it took me a while to really get it, to find myself enraptured with what was playing out on the page – because I wasn’t expecting anything like what I found awaiting me – it is utterly stunning. LaRocca’s prose is mesmerising and beguiling and I think I was just taken aback because I never knew horror could be like this – this is something really, really special and I’m struggling to sum up exactly what that is!
The lyricism that LaRocca adds to his prose is nothing short of brilliant, each line seems to have been shaped by a master wordsmith, each sentence is a bountiful feast of poetic prose that sings from the page and each paragraph flows with an intrinsic beauty that smothers the reader in a blanket of shimmering brilliance. I can’t speak highly enough of the writing on offer here, it warms the soul whilst also stirring the mind into visualising the wonderful and eerie work from LaRocca’s pen.
I’ve not seen horror written this beautifully before and it shows that horror and the beauty of all things horrific can sit side by side with one another, it’s a cold embrace that seems matched perfectly. Every subtle thread (pardon the pun) of horror that creeps into this story lands with elegance and prowess – which showcases the skill of a seasoned professional and not something you’d think to find in a debut novella.
This book moved me in ways I wasn’t expecting, it has many moving parts and many allegories that are deftly handled by LaRocca, things such as sexuality, LGBTQ+, belonging, survival, grief and how guilt can chew you up and spit you out.
Our main protagonist Teddy lives in a small town in America, she’s working at a store and we soon discover that things are not quite what they seem, that Teddy is not what the world sees, there is something more about her, to her, and we soon discover that her very being is at war with itself.
As I said previous guilt is something that when it gets inside you, it can rot you from your very core, and that’s kind of what’s happening to Teddy. In an opening that had me wondering what the very hell I was reading we witness Teddy unravel, quite literally, her skin unfurls and these tendrils move off in search of something to appease this ache, this desire and constant hunger of her guilt, something to keep it sated and full. You see Teddy’s threads feast on emotions, not her’s but those of individuals that surround her, but her unwilling victims know nothing of the ghosts in her every thread that are ravenous and need to be fed.
Teddy is a wonderfully rendered character, there are so many layers to her that she’s just fully formed on the page, I really enjoyed taking this journey with her, residing in her life for the brief length of this novella. She’s got a deepness to her too, and this deepness caused my heart to ache, I read into this story a bit, let my mind wander with LaRocca’s fabulous prose / story and for me it seemed that the key to this story was more about the unsaid than it was the words that I was consuming.
There is an allegory here about acceptance, about being the person you were born to be and not the person the world screams and beats you into conforming to. There’s also that whole small town vibe, where being different is frowned upon, and the suffocation of oppression, with everyone knowing your business – and with Teddy they do, many of those in the story know of her guilt and of the thing that she did and how she’s tormented by it.
There is also the sexuality side of things, Teddy is almost hiding this from the world until a chance encounter with Kiiara – changes not only her outlook but the life she once knew. There is a scene with a rare beetle that enraptured me with its hidden meanings, LaRocca describes for this beetle to emerge from its previous form to the stunning specimen beneath this shell of a body it is going to be painful, it could kill it. This scene just spoke to me so much about LGBTQ+ issues, those of the community coming out, revealing to the world, family and friends the person that they’ve been hiding or scared to show – but it’s never going to be an easy ride, such is the bigoted view of people. I might be completely wrong, but that’s the allegory I took from this, that people can be mean and punishing sonofabitches to anything that dares to be different from their deluded world view.
It’s a fabulous story, one that is full of beauty and written with a lyricism that feels like you’re listening to classical music, something that is good for the soul.
There is horror here, there is pain here but it’s not like anything you’ve ever read before. I wouldn’t even class this as a horror story; the lyricism, the poetic language, the literary feel of it just propels this to a whole different level, I’d say even creating a genre of its own – what that genre would be called I have no idea, but it’s where tragedy and beauty reside and LaRocca is its bright shining light.
Starving Ghosts In Every Thread is a story of life, a story about struggle and of breaking free of the bonds that strangle, ripping off the clawing hands of guilt and relinquishing the grip of those hands, of shunning the voices that continue to scream that you’re no good. It’s about owning your guilt and shedding light on its darkness so the ghosts of guilt and grief have nothing to feast on.
LaRocca is a stunningly talented writer (and this is just his debut) and I honestly can’t wait to dive into more of his work – if you like your horror beautifully rendered, if you want your heart torn in two, if you want to see a beautiful and unique physical representation of guilt and grief and turmoil then look no further than this unique and damn right masterful offering.
Starving Ghosts In Every Thread will change you, if you let it!
Starving Ghosts In Every Thread is available here.
Eric LaRocca holds an MFA in Writing for Film and Television from Emerson College. His fiction has appeared in various literary journals and anthologies published in the US and abroad such as, Stiff Things and Year’s Best Hardcore Horror, Volume 2. He is also the author of several plays which have been developed and produced at theaters across the country including, Gadfly Theater Productions, Hartford Stage, La Petite Morgue, and Love Creek Productions. He currently resides in Cambridge, MA. Follow him on Twitter @ejlarocca.
Starving Ghosts in Every Thread is his debut novella.
Reviewed by Ross Jeffery
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