"The Winter People" takes place in two time periods, 1908 and the present. It tells the story of a small family, a creepy rock formation called The Devil's Hand, and a legend about "sleepers"--the dead brought back to life--that may be true or may be the rantings of a madwoman.
I liked the 1908 storyline much better than the present day. Some of the situations in the present day thread, especially in the second half of the book, just didn't seem believable at all to me, even given a little leeway for the sake of a good yarn. The 1908 thread, on the other hand, is engrossing and truly scary.
The tagline to Stephen King's "Pet Sematary" was "sometimes dead is better." That applies to this story, too. In Sara Shea, who loses her son and then her daughter (followed quickly by her grip on reality), McMahon has created an unforgettable character. Too bad nobody in the present day segment comes close to being as interesting.
In terms of sheer entertainment, "The Winter People" is pretty good. It's hard to put down. However, the first half is better than the second half because of the silliness of some of the present day scenes. I think she should have just stuck to the 1908 story by itself; it was genuinely frightening. She didn't, though, and the novel is the poorer for it.
"What matters most is how well we walk through the fire." --Charles Bukowski
The maple keys are falling, as they do every year. I have taken to reading out in the yard, while my new dog wanders.
My walnut tree, the one the winter nearly killed two years ago, is green again, a home and pantry for squirrels. It is Michigan cool, late May, but warming.
I don't dream of your body as much as I used to, but my dreams are full of you all the same. I line up these poems like dolls, a puppet show to please you.
Books end, dogs die, summer runs its course. Stay, won't you, sweetheart? Call me when you can-- I will be here, spinning like a maple key, still your breezy northern girl.
For Play it Again, Toads. I chose Kenia's challenge to start with a line from a poet you don't like. I dislike Charles Bukowski, the idol of many. Too much booze, too much ugliness. I got the idea to write a very gentle poem about a very bold thing--making it through this life with some sort of grace.
The Partridge Family, ruined and violent, take up residence in what's left of the ark, parked in Noah's cracked, weed-lined driveway next to his run-down split-level.
David sings, "I Think I Love You" with heavy irony, as he shovels old giraffe shit into a wheelbarrow. Danny Bonaduce walks up and pops him one, shouting, "shut your pie hole, you pinhead motherfucker!" The police come. Again.
Susan Dey does Noah for the rent, her life a mountain of failed wrinkle creams. She can't believe she made an idiot of herself over David. She can't believe she sat there shaking a stupid tambourine when she could have learned to shred on guitar.
Their tv show is an ancient memory. All their out-of-date clothes rot in resale bin hell. Susan's hair looks like shit no matter what she does. It is starting to rain, and the animals are gone.
Reader, behold the rising waters, the fallen stars. Weep, and start rowing. _______
When the funnel came twisting down out of the anvil cloud, I saw it first in the middle pane of the window, then the one on the lower left, as well.
A dead fly hung suspended where the the twister hit the earth, remaining motionless, as it had for weeks, while roofs and SUVs circled, suddenly airborne.
I rang the bell, and if it was only the tiny ornamental servant's bell, at least I tried. "Get to safety," I thought as loudly as I could, then sat down to wait.
My children all live elsewhere, I already took in the mail, and covering the garden flowers would do little good, even if the afternoon weren't mostly gone. It's gotten too dark to read; besides, the power is out. I will just calmly watch the resurrection of the fly, shaking in his cobweb, brother to the brick wall, sister to the semi, the silo, and the cement overpass where idiots huddle only to be swept out and away, having ignored my warnings. _______ for Karin's mini-challenge at Real Toads: for whom the bell tolls.
"The Circus In Winter" is a series of eleven "displays", or short stories, that are loosely interconnected; a detail from one story becomes the main theme in another, or the offspring of one character gets their own story later on.
Everything centers on the Wallace Porter Circus & Menagerie, a fictitious traveling circus that winters in the town of Lima, Indiana. Because of the off-season theme, the stories are more about the people than they are about circus acts, though of course there is no way for many of these characters to ever be ordinary.
Cathy Day very skillfully weaves a lot of things together here. For example, she follows the lineage of a family of faux African pinheads all the way from slave days, and shows how becoming a spear-shaking wild man for the circus paid much better than emptying so-called honeypots on a paddle boat.
A lot of these characters long for something better that seems to elude them. From a clown who ends up running a dry cleaning store, to a rising baseball star who passes up a chance to play with a barnstorming team of all-stars in order to take over his parents' mortuary, to a disillusioned railroad worker who has to find a way to deal with the gypsy band that takes over the campground he has become manager of, they all dream of happier things, but rarely find them. One character is even drowned by his own elephant, and a lonely wife hires the circus painter on whom she has a crush to paint circus scenes all over the inside of her house.
I really liked this series of stories, and although the lives portrayed don't usually go very well--like the clown who accidentally kills his clown pal by hitting him in the head with an ax--these tales are nonetheless highly readable and memorable. Recommended.