Figurehead

- Carly Holmes

Goodreads Book Blurb:

In this debut collection of stories Carly Holmes peers into every corner of the strange fiction genre: from rural gothic through to traditional ghost stories and the uncanny. Mothers turn into trees when the sun goes down; Russian Dolls mourn their missing sisters in rotting houses; men offer sacrifices to the monsters who embody their inner wildness; and murderous demons protect young girls’ virginity. Ranging from flash fiction to novelette, these stories are in turn chilling, playful, and melancholy. The bonds of family and of community, both in their fracturing and their healing states, the uneasy relationship between living in the present and yearning for the past, are themes that thread their way through Figurehead. Every tale is rich with landscapes haunted by loss and longing.

Genres:

My Review:

***Thanks to NetGalley and Parthian Books for an eARC of this book. The following review is my honest reflection on the text provided.

almost perfect:
4.5/5
Beautifully written and captivating, this collection of short stories ranges from slightly creepy to truly terrifying. I don’t usually like anything too scary, but I loved Figurehead. Most of these stories were just on the border of realism, often making me question whether they were paranormal, untreated mental illness, or just the worst of humanity.

I’ve written a TLDR for each story- each brilliantly beautiful in their own right (asterisks next to my favourites):

The Demon L: judged by her looks and betrayed by everyone, the demon L takes a violent approach to unwanted attention and disloyalty
Miss Luna: don’t judge a book by its cover unless you want to be disappointed
Little Matrons: separated Russian Dolls pine endlessly for their lost sisters
Sleep: what would you do if you found yourself alone, raising a monster?
*-Ghost Story: you should probably take the ghost stories about that abandoned house in the woods seriously
*-Dropped Stitches: next level phantom limb
Like Water through Fingers: this one went right over my head – love & tragedy & water & reunion?
*-Maria’s Silence: silence is golden
Piece by Piece: a non-traditional love story
The Glamour: untreated mental illness or faeries taking you home?
*-Wich: when even your fertility can’t save you
Three for a Girl: don’t live in haunted houses
Perspectives: never doubt the power of a good book club
Runty: beware of observant strangers
*-Into the Woods: a poem about losing yourself in the woods
Alter: true love survives even the most unbelievable situations
Before the Fairytale: questionable foxes
Next Door’s Dog:

Give into it, just this once. For all the times you haven’t.

*-Heartwood: my mother, the tree
Figurehead: your ship has a life of its own & it might not care about yours
*-They Tell Me: a true horror story that too many women experienced
Woodside Close: part Doctor Who episode, part fairy tale sprung into being
A Small Life: when the wilderness tries to claim you
Tattletale: schoolyard bullies & karma
Beneath the Skin: the ties that bind us… to a monster
Rootless: did you read the fine print before offering your first tooth to the Tooth Fairy?

Like poetry, reading these short stories too quickly back-to-back ruins the magic. Instead, contemplation unlocks the imagination, allowing the worlds within to flourish and take hold. I know many of these stories will stay with me for a long time.

If she were a tree I didn't think I'd mind too much because we could plant her in the garden and I'd water her and scramble up and down her height, swing from the thrust of her topmost branches. I knew she wouldn't let me fall.

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