This happens more than it should in the world of reading. There are several eerie similarities between Sheri Holman’s new novel and the book I only recently finished: Tea Obreht’s The Tiger’s Wife. There is in both novels an abusive man who beats his wife. In Obreht’s novel, it was the town butcher who verbally and physically abused his wife. In that case, the tiger’s wife (the wife of the butcher) got her revenge. In Holman’s world, Cora, the abused wife is actually a witch.
In both novels as well, there are long hidden family secrets to be revealed, and time shifts as the story of those families are told. In Holman’s work, we move from 1940 (Eddie as a young boy living with his mother and mostly absent father in Panther’s Gap), to the 1980’s (Eddie, after a long stint as a weatherman and a career of hosting afternoon horror movies has been let go), to the present as he lays dying. Wallis, his only daughter is also a key figure. Eddie was Captain Casket. You’ve probably seen these shows if you are of a certain age. It’s funny, he even mentions the one I used to watch growing up in Miami: a ghoulish creature that went by the name of M.T Graves. I think Graves was also a weatherman, and he hosted the schlock fest from behind bars. Whenever he had to go to commercial, he told the audience that “the warden” had some words to say. That brings back memories!
Wallis is the daughter with the complicated relationship with her father (whereas it was the grandfather and granddaughter in Obreht’s novel). It’s through her that much of the psychological substrata of Holman’s work is revealed. And that’s the major flaw here. Many of the characters just don’t seem to be acting quite as they should. It’s an odd group that’s been put together here. And Wallis is the worst of all. As an adult she’s strangely casual about her sex, but it’s as a young twelve year old that she comes across as not believable. She has perceptions and observations that just do not seem plausible in a girl of that age.
There are some passages that on second glance are just meaningless. The dying Eddie says that
…only now do I begin to understand the need to terrify, followed by the even greater need to puncture the fear we’ve called into being.
So far so good, a perceptive enough comment on our delight at being scared to death. But, that’s followed by
It is a surrender and recovery that feels suspiciously like love.
Really a meaningless turn of phrase.
Mostly entertaining, and I actually liked it better than The Tiger’s Wife. Yet I’m sure it will leave no lasting impression on me.