Epeolatry Book Review: Holy Ghost Road by John Mantooth
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Title: Holy Ghost Road
Author: John Mantooth
Publisher: Cemetery Dance Publications
Release Date: 20th December, 2022
Synopsis: Some roads are haunted by the past. Some by ghosts. Some are even haunted by demons. The one Forest must travel is haunted by all three.
When she discovers Pastor Nesmith praying to a demonic entity in her family’s barn, Forest knows she must run. Enraged at the possibility of having his true allegiance exposed, Nesmith pursues Forest as she flees on foot, hoping to reach the one person who will believe her—her grandmother. Unfortunately, Granny is forty miles away, and Forest has no car, no phone, and no friends. To reach her, Forest will have to learn to see the world true, even as the demonic and the sacred wage war for her soul.
A modern day Red Riding Hood, Forest must escape a wolf (her stepfather, Nesmith) as she flees to Grandma’s house. However, staying on the path (Highway 278) will only get her killed so Forest has to rely on her resourcefulness and ingenuity to survive.
Forest is a dynamic character who, while only fifteen, is engaging and clever. In other works, I find these precocious characters can be hard to swallow, but when you learn everything Forest has dealt with in her short life, it makes sense that she would show strength beyond her years. Her character is the highlight of the story.
As Forest travels, she gains two companions. The first one, Elijah, is a man who is incapacitated by his inability to believe. Elijah always needs a scientific explanation for everything, which is in direct opposition to Forest’s growing faith in the supernatural. Elijah adds a nice dimension to the story and variety to the conflicts that Forest faces. However, the second companion that Forest adopts feels like an unnecessary source of conflict that the author isn’t always sure how to handle. I would have preferred that Forest only travel with Elijah to her destination.
Holy Ghost Road explores the themes of family, religion, faith, and friendship. One thing I appreciate is that while Nesmith, the local preacher, is charismatic and evil and an example of the downside of organized religion, the novella also explores the positive sides of faith and religion through Forest and her grandmother.
Overall, I enjoyed this novella. It kept me guessing at what would happen next, and for demonstrating just how far away 40 miles can be when you don’t have a car.
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Melody lives in Ontario, Canada and writes short, dark fiction. She has been published in several anthologies and online publications. In university, she studied Ancient Greek and Roman Studies and often infuses her work with elements of Greek mythology. She also loves reading, embroidery, and martial arts. You can follow her homepage at: https://www.blog.melodyemcintyre.com/