February 17, 2014

Faded Genes and Desperate Means: a review of Mary SanGiovanni's "The Fading Place"

The Fading Place
by Mary SanGiovanni
DarkFuse (2014)
ISBN13: 9781949544229

They say never to get in the car with someone trying to abduct you. Run for your life. But what do they say to do when you're already in the car with armed-and-crazy? And running at the earliest opportunity is pretty hard to do when your infant daughter is in the car, too.

Charlie, a single mother, on the road with her infant daughter, Haley, just doing her usual errands around town. A completely normal, random day. That is until she meets Simone, an emotionally unstable woman who takes her hostage and forces her to drive to an unannounced location, all while Simone sits in the backseat with little Haley. And if Charlie doesn't do as she's told, Simone promising to kill Haley, and Charlie is inclined to believe her because Simone shows an unnerving disregard for her own well-being, along with that of Charlie and her daughter.

There's nothing fancy about this novella. It's just pure terror reflecting a parent's worst nightmare. And Charlie is as much trapped in the maelstrom of potential outcomes whirling in her mind as she's trapped in the car with a madwoman. And the further along the road they travel, the more evident it is that Simone's psyche is all but shattered, and it becomes a balancing act for Charlie to keep things from spiraling even more out of control.

The Fading Place taps into that same kind of terror as Stephen King's Cujo, but with a shorter page count in which to work. In one sense, the story feels abrupt, but on the other hand it doesn't mince words and doesn't slow down. It certainly served as a strong introduction to SanGiovanni's work and I will be keeping my eye out for more. She has a novel out from a couple years back called Thrall that I may have to look up, so there's that.

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