EEL RIVER by Shannon Page takes place in a northern California hippie community during the early 1970s. The author drew from her own childhood in choosing this setting, but the novel she created is a creepy, disturbing horror tale.
The story comes at us from the perspectives of the ten-year-old Princess, the Mom, and the Dad. The characters are never referred to by any names other than these, which suggests a fairy tale quality that is nicely subverted as events become both more earthy and more unearthly. Something evil is happening on the Land, and the Princess understands that this time it's not make-believe. Her parents are preoccupied with the practicalities of starting a community, and they'd just as soon leave their dreamy, independent daughter to her own devices.
The shifting points of view are used to great effect to build a huge amount of suspense and dread. I'm not normally a horror reader, and I appreciated that the scariness in this story was mostly of a subtler nature, mixed in with some well-placed humor. It's definitely a creepy book, but probably not terrifying to most, and I'd recommend it to others interested in giving horror a try.
I've known Shannon for years, and during that time, she's always been hard at work on one novel or another. EEL RIVER was released in December, marking her debut, but two more of her novels are making their way to publication later this year! I'm thrilled to see Shannon's years of writing and revising coming to fruition.
Good Stuff Out There:
→ Christopher R Boltz compares worldbuilding in fiction to theatrical set design: "Whatever world the audience is about to engage with, designers need to let them know up front. If a production design begins realistically, then suddenly changes to extreme abstraction, we will jolt the audience out of play because we broke the rules we established at the start." (Thanks, Juliette Wade!)