This is among the greatest collections of short literary horror fiction I have ever read. Stories like Sunbleached, The Good Husband, and Wild Acre are simply mindblowing and beautiful. There is a quote that C. S. Lewis said about Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings novels, and it is perfect to describe Ballingrud’s North American Lake Monsters: “Here are beauties which pierce like swords, or burn like cold iron. Here is a book that will break your heart.” Well, break it or stop it when it scares you to death.
But aside from the more obvious horrors in this collection, what stands out are Ballingrud’s characters, how they struggle to express themselves and make difficult decisions in the shadow of the moral consequences they face; consequences brought on by the internal conflicts in which they have entagled themselves, whether voluntarily or involuntarily.
The situations the men, women, and children of North American Lake Monsters find themselves in are horrifying, subtle, and complex. These characters are people, like you and me with weird desires; hidden secrets; dark, most-often subconscious intentions; and cold, unrequited desires who learn that evil, like love, or fear, or pain, dwells in a number of mysterious places, one being the human heart—nestled like a black parasitic worm inside that uniquely human longing for all of those evasive things we do not, that we cannot, have.
– Sanguine Woods
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