Stone Animals

October 25, 2016 at 6:00 pm (Reads)

stoneStone Animals by Kelly Link

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I stumbled across this novella via a list of creepy fiction, one of many I’ve read, now that Halloween is approaching. Most of them I dismiss for one reason or another. Stone Animals sounded like something I was looking for, horror “done right”, as I so often hope to find. Of course I had to read it.

The story is about a family, one who moves into a house in the country after having lived in the city. It’s a nuclear family, with one on the way, and the youngest son is the first to notice something off with the house. They move in anyway, and the oddities become more and more noticeable to the entire family as time goes on. As this happens, the family becomes more and more alienated to each other.

Link’s eye for detail is impressive. It’s not just in her settings, either; she has a keen eye for behavior and ear for dialogue. She creates the family dynamic realistically, and the unusual things that happen in the house seem natural (as natural as a haunted dishwasher can be, that is). The eeriness of the story isn’t carried by ghosts or poltergeists; instead, Link imbues ordinary things with a feeling of dread, and populates her story with hauntings that can exist in the light of day. That the hauntings extend to the people populating this story makes it all the more effective.

Stone Animals is odd, surreal, and disturbing. It’s literary horror with a Gothic element, done well, and done right. I don’t see that the story would be for everyone — its premise is concerning, its message dismal — but for those who appreciate a thoughtful, off-kilter look at a dysfunctional family, they need look no further.

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