* Minor spoilers ahead
If you don’t know it by now, I have become a bit of a connoisseur of the writing of Gemma Amor. Since discovering her about nine months ago via Cruel Works of Nature (one of my favorite reads of 2019), I have devoured everything she has out there since (in printed form – I am still trying to find time to listen to her via the popular The No Sleep Podcast). Every chance I get, I recommend her and her books to friends and strangers. But I digress.
Grief is a False God is her new illustrated novelette, featuring the drawings of Anibal Santos. It’s the kind of story you read in one sitting, and not just because of its length – this story executes sharply without hesitancy, making for a quick and emotional scare. If you read Till the Score is Paid, then you probably remember “The Strangler.” Dealing in postpartum depression, that story and Grief…have something to share: the unexplainable desire to evacuate following the birth of a child. This sort of sadness can become debilitating and fatale, as seen in this story.
There’s a conversation at one point in which the lead character (Elijah, the father/husband) is startled to learn his deceased wife had been mentally ill with such a depression, claiming she’d always seemed happy playing with their daughter. Here’s the thing about depression – people can be strong enough to hide it from others until, finally, it becomes so heavy that they take life into their own hands. Having had a happy-go-lucky friend blow his brains out a decade ago, I know how confusing it can seem to friends and family.
The point I am trying to make is Gemma has a way with emotional distress. She has written it well before and has done so again here. Seeing as the villain of Grief is some sort of magical, vampire-like being (feeding off the sadness of others), you’d have to have such experience in the depression-devil to do the theme justice on paper. Gemma bares her soul, in other words (and this isn’t the first time).
Grief is a False God is an excellent novelette well worth your time. And better yet, Gemma could easily return to this story with a sequel following the daughter. Let’s hope she does, because that farm and demon left an impression on me!
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