Reviewed by Amy Gruzesky
This collection of short stories by Sierra Smith, her first, is one of the most unique, and enjoyable, collections I have come across.
It’s apparent that there will be two parts to this collection — Dusk and Dawn. What is not apparent is how different the two themes will be.
The book starts out with Dusk, and like the title implies, it is dark. All of the stories take place at night or at dusk, and all are haunting, scary stories. I won’t use the term horror, as to me, they don’t really fit that category. Rather, they are more like really good ghost stories one would tell around a campfire.
In fact, one story, “High Water Lake”, starts out with a group of teenage boys pranking one another around a campfire, sharing stories of a mythological lake monster that lurks beneath the surface of the lake, on the shore of which they are gathered.
Another story, Pierce, is a tale of a centuries old vampire believed to be responsible for the disappearance of a young woman. Two friends decide to go vampire hunting in the cemetery near where the woman disappeared. One is a firm believer in the vampire tale, the other, a total skeptic and non-believer. What they find solves the mystery of what happened to the missing woman and affirms what one of them believes.
“Haunted” starts out with a woman, Kate, who is haunted by a memory from her younger days, and is drawn to an old, deserted mansion on the outskirts of town where she once partied as a teenager. The house is rumored to be haunted by the ghosts of the husband and wife who died there as part of a murder-suicide.
Once inside, Kate finds herself inside a truly haunted house and makes a series of discoveries that she had never anticipated.
In the second part of the book, “Dawn”, the stories are lighter, and deal with relationships and human connection and the complexities and life events that people experience that lead them down a different path than the one they had been going down.
Some stories are sweet, others bittersweet, and all deal with situations and decisions anyone can encounter at different points in their lives.
In “Fresh Grounds”, a woman in a coffee shop gets stood up by her blind date, only to meet an intriguing writer who, it can only be assumed, may end up being a better match for her than the guy her friend tried to set her up with.
In “Realest State”, a young, engaged couple goes house hunting, comes across what should be the perfect house for them, but ends up being a catalyst for one of them coming to an unexpected conclusion about their future.
And in “Montgomery”, the closing, and longest, story of the book, the reader is introduced to Monty and Meg when they are eight- and nine-years-old and see them growing up together, morphing from friends to teen sweethearts to a college couple, to two young professionals trying to carve a niche out for themselves as individuals, all the while trying to hold onto the love they have for one another and their relationship.
While these stories are all different, one commonality they share is interesting characters and protagonists that draw you in and make you want to find out more about them and how their stories end.
This book is a real page-turner and not one you’re going to ant to put down until you get to the very end.