Epeolatry Book Review: Beautiful, Frightening and Silent by Jennifer Anne Gordon
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Title: Beautiful, Frightening and Silent
Author: Jennifer Anne Gordon
Publisher: Breaking Rules Publishing
Release Date: 1st August, 2020
Synopsis: Adam, a young alcoholic, slowly descends into madness while dealing with the psychological scars of childhood trauma which are reawakened when his son and wife die in a car accident for which he feels responsible. After a failed suicide attempt, and more group meetings that he can mention, Adam hears a rumor of a Haunted Island off the Coast of Maine, where “if someone wants it bad enough” they could be reunited with a lost loved one.
In his desperate attempt to connect with the ghost of his four-and-a half year old son, he decides to go to Dagger Island, desperate to apologize, or receive condemnation, from his young son. Adam is not sure what he deserves or even which of these he wants more. While staying in the crumbling old boarding house, he becomes involved with a beautiful and manipulative ghost who has spent 60 years tormenting an elderly man who was once her lover, and ultimately her murderer. The three of them create a “Menage-a-Guilt” as they all come to terms with what ties them so emotionally to their memories and their very “existence”. Beautiful, Frightening, and Silent is a poetic fever dream of grief, love, and the terrifying ways that obsession can change who we are.
From the title itself, I expected the Beautiful, Frightening, and Silent to be a ghost story, and that is exactly what Gordon gave me. I was pulled into the story by page one through Gordon’s lyrical writing.
However, she established a way to set up her chapters to indicate character point of view that I found hard to follow. While I appreciate the structure the author was trying to develop in order to identify their POV in the scene, I felt like I was reading three separate character stories versus one story with three different characters whose POV came together at the end.
Gordon’s poetic writing style brilliantly painted the book’s setting. Anthony’s house was easily imagined. A foreboding sense of doom hung on the periphery of all the different settings neatly tucked into the story. I felt Fiona’s haunting permeate throughout Dagger Island. I always knew she was there lurking and waiting.
Anthony and Adam’s backstory was well woven into the story, leading me to understand what made these men who they are—they experienced at one time or another a level of dark trauma. While there was clear distinction in how both Anthony and Adam reacted to their trauma, both seemed to spiral out of control in the same manner.
As a character, Fiona was a bit of a struggle to read; she seemed like two completely different “people”. Fiona’s ghost form was forlorn and didn’t know what her future held. But the Fiona who Adam encountered was manipulative and driven towards some goal that wasn’t defined in the book. This character-split pulled me from the story, and I found it hard to accept that the two representations of Fiona were one in the same. I do like how Gordon provided the reader with hints throughout the book that there was more to be seen from Fiona than just her invisible specter. For example, prior to Adam’s discovery of her, there were physical clues—red hair, wet footprints, and disembodied sounds.
Overall, the book captured the true essence of a ghost story and was quite a page turner. Gordon’s writing style was enchanting, and several sentences read like poetry. Yet, the POV made this book a complicated read since I had to stop to think and at times re-read prior scenes in order for it to make sense.
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Born with a love of scary stories and folklore, Amanda Headlee has spent her entire life crafting works of dark fiction. She has a fascination with the emotion of fear and believes it is the first emotion humans feel at the moment they are born. Most of her work focuses on horror associated with folklore as well as writing that would fall into the category of “cosmic horror” — the fear of humanity’s insignificance in the vastness of the universe.
By day Amanda is an Information Services Program Manager; by night she is a wandering wonderer. When she isn’t writing or working, she can be found logging insane miles on her bike or running the back country of Pennsylvania. She’s one of those crazy people who competes in long distance endurance races. She is inspired by the works of Shirley Jackson, Flannery O’Connor, Margaret Atwood, H.P. Lovecraft, and Joyce Carol Oates — all who write terrifying tales of their own.
Amanda keeps a blog of her writing, wondering, and wandering experiences at www.amandaheadlee.com. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.