Miles hasn’t been back to the family farm in Arden, Wisconsin in twenty years. He left behind a reputation as a troublemaker, but he feels Arden is the place to be no matter how the locals hate him. Because he has to keep a promise he made all those years ago.
Let’s start with Miles. He is the main focus and our narrator, and he shapes everything we see. To the point that I wonder if he is even remotely reliable. There’s a moment around the halfway point that will have you questioning him, and throughout the entire, wild ride, Miles will seem iffy after that, if he wasn’t already to begin with. To me, this is proof positive that Straub knew what he was doing. He knew the story he wanted to tell, one in which even the audience will start to wonder if the angry, hateful locals don’t have a point about Miles.
It’s a wonderful ride to take for that reason. Everyone seems guilty, untrustworthy, and yet so is the very person telling the tale. It lends the story an air of the truly mysterious and suspicious. Straub, I’m learning as I read his work, is a master of tone. And not just with the mystery he puts forth in this novel, but with the way he sets up Miles as this haughty know-it-all faced with a town of plebeians that plague him. The point isn’t who we, the reader, should side with but rather wanting only to see how this butting of heads will go, knowing all the while that it will be explosive.
My one nitpick would be that the book doesn’t really end. It just stops. Like Straub decided he was done writing. That was all he had, so that was it. While the line it ends on is fairly symbolic of Miles’s journey and has a touch of dark comedy to it, it felt kind of cheap after all we just went through.
Straub brings class to horror unlike anyone I’ve ever read. He has literary tricks up his sleeve that will keep sophisticated readers happy throughout. I’m extra happy he’s chosen horror as his go-to genre.