Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Mormama by Kit Reed

Dell has no memory of who he is or where he comes from. But he thinks the note bearing the address of an aged mansion in Jacksonville could be a clue. The house is home to three old women - sisters named Ivy, Iris, and Rose - and, more recently, their niece Lane and her son Theo. Oh, and Mormama. 

A ghost, or not a ghost, a spirit trapped in the house for centuries, Mormama has watched generations fall prey to the mansion and the evil within. Men and boys in particular are in danger here, and she's taken to warning both Theo and the illicitly squatting Dell, though neither seems quite inclined to take her seriously. Even when the aunts themselves start to let things slip, none of the house's newcomers understands quite what it all means. But Mormama knows. She knows all too well. 

This is a supremely weird book, which is perhaps why I was able to read it while sick as a dog. Yes, sick again. 2017 has definitely not been great in that regard.

So we have multiple narrators in this one: Dell, who is suffering from amnesia and believes the crumbling mansion is his salvation; Theo, twelve and spunky, and more than happy to keep secret the fact that Dell is hiding out in the basement; Ivy, the elderly, wheelchair-bound aunt; Lane, don't call me Elaine, who also thought she'd find her fortune in Jacksonville; Mormama, one more mama than they needed; and then the occasional early twentieth century journal outtakes. Whew, that's a lot of narrators.

Setting and characters were wins here. The crumbling mansion in Florida sitting on what was once the most affluent street in the up and coming city was perfect for a haunted house story. Theo ventures out into the neighborhood a few times, commenting on the shady figures hanging out on the street and the convenience store with nothing convenient unless you want dusty candy bars. This paired with Lane's situation give the story a heavy sense of desperation and even malaise on top of the underlying sinister feel. And there is a great atmosphere built in Mormama.

Reed does a wonderful job giving each of her characters a voice of their own too, which is kind of an accomplishment considering how many there are.

But, and maybe this is because there were so many narrators, the story became muddled quite early on. I was never clear, for example, if the repetition on the part of Mormama was due to her beginning to fade or simply error on part of the author. And there was a lot of repetition. There were also a lot of questions that remained completely unanswered!

I was drawn to this one by the promise of a creepy read but I found what kept me reading was curiosity more than anything else. Yes, I liked the characters and I was invested in the story, but ultimately I didn't think it paid off nor was there a truly satisfactory explanation about the happenings in the house. Mormama could have been fantastic and horrific, instead it was more of an entertaining oddity.

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