I had read good things about T. Kingfisher from other Cannonballers, so when I saw this one at the book store I grabbed it. I will definitely be seeking out more of her stuff.
This is a story about a heroic dog. Okay, maybe not really, but the dog is a very important part of the story, and the storyteller says over and over that if Bongo had been scared, she would’ve run. She trusted his instincts more than her own. We all think that if we were put into a scenario from a horror movie, we would do the smart thing, but Kingfisher does a great job of showing why that might not necessarily happen.
Mouse (childhood nickname) is cleaning out the home of her estranged, deceased, mean as a snake, hoarder grandmother. Things are capital W Weird around the house and property, but she stays because her father needs her to do this task, because she needs her share of the money if she gets the house in sellable order, because her dog isn’t scared of potential ghosts, monsters, and freaky holes in reality. As she’s throwing away decades of newspapers and junk, she finds her step-grandfather’s journal, and later a manuscript he wrote, telling a strange tale of beings from Elsewhere. When that Elsewhere starts to infringe on Mouse’s cleaning process (peering in her window and knocking on her door!), she has to decide if she’s going to believe her eyes and if she’s going to take her dog and run. Walking the dog in the woods one day, she finds a mountain that isn’t there, full of stones with unsettling carvings. She meets some neighbors who have heard tales of the Holler People, validating the stories from the journal. She and the neighbors have to band together against monsters from a mountain that sometimes isn’t there.
This was creepy and unsettling and fun. Even though the story felt a little familiar, I couldn’t predict where it was going, and I really liked Mouse. Weirdly, I liked that the stories about the nasty grandma were taken at face value. There was no post-death redemption or “Oh, she can’t have been that bad.” Sometimes family members are horrible, and that’s all there is to it! That’s not a version of the story you see a lot of.
And happy spoiler: the dog lives!