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Mapping the Interior Paperback – June 20, 2017
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"Brilliant." ―The New York Times
"Stephen Graham Jones's Mapping the Interior is a triumph. So emotionally raw, disturbing, creepy, and brilliant. You will not be unmoved. You will not be unaffected. It's a ghost story in the truest, darkest, most melancholy sense. Stephen knows we are haunted by our parents, our families, and our shared pasts as much as we are haunted by ourselves; haunted by who we were, who we become, and who we could've been." ―Paul Tremblay, author of A Head Full of Ghosts and Disappearance at Devil's Rock
"Stephen Graham Jones’s chilling Mapping the Interior is part S.E. Hinton and part Shirley Jackson. It’s about being young and broke, and that moment when you first wonder who your parents really are. The answers are out there, but they will leave you haunted forever." ―Richard Kadrey, author of the Sandman Slim series
"Mapping the Interior is Jones at his best." ―PANK Magazine
"A chilling tale told from a less-heard perspective, Mapping the Interior is the type of horror story you keep on your shelf for regular hauntings." ―Rue Morgue
"Mapping the Interior is thus a masterful critique of time, place, and memory in (post/de)colonial contexts that surfaces questions urgent for Native literature, horror fiction, and American history." ―World Literature Today
"Wonderfully refreshing and not to be missed." ―Publishers Weekly
About the Author
STEPHEN GRAHAM JONES was raised as pretty much the only Blackfeet in West Texas―except for his dad and grandma and aunts and uncles and cousins. He now lives in Boulder, Colorado with his wife, a couple kids, and too many old trucks. Between West Texas and now, he's had more than fifteen novels and several story collections published, including, from William Morrow, the werewolf novel Mongrels. Stephen teaches in the MFA programs at CU Boulder and UCR-PD.
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Mapping the Interior is a unique piece of fiction in many ways. For one, Jones’ prose is unbelievably beautiful; almost lyrical. It has a deceptive flow to it which lulls the reader into appreciation of Jones’ story-telling without at first noticing that the story’s narrator is totally unreliable. In some ways, Mapping the Interior is reminiscent of what now may be an almost forgotten, albeit brilliant novel, The Kryptonite Kid (1979) by Joseph Torchia in which the reader is forced to evaluate and try to detect fantasy from reality. Jones’ narrator, however, makes it even more difficult than does Torchia’s.
There is no doubt that by time Jones’ narrator sees his father’s ghost that the boy is haunted; but by exactly what? Determined to see his father again, the boy tries to trigger more sleep-walking episodes and he goes so far as to draw a map of the family’s floor plan to their inadequate modular house—including under it—to try to find evidence of his father’s presence. The book’s title, thus, becomes a wonderful metaphor for the boy’s internal search of the house as well as himself.
During all of Mapping the Interior there are moments of realist family drama and interactions between the two brothers and between the brothers and their mother. Some scenes reflect great love. Some reflect tragedy and fear. Growing up for those that are considered different and who do not have much of any luxury to fall back upon is difficult. However, in Mapping the Interior there are also genuinely frightening events—made all the more alarming by the fact that the line between reality and fantasy is a blur throughout and the narrator’s citing of events is filled with misleading contradictions. The ground upon which the reader stands is ever uncertain and shifting.
By time readers reach the end of the novel they will most likely have gained some greater appreciation of modern American Indian life and the trials many of those individuals face without having been preached to by Jones. As per the plot and story, readers who must have everything spelled out for them in black and white with every loose end neatly tied up are likely to be disappointed. Mapping the Interior will best be appreciated by readers who revel in superb writing and who enjoy experiencing a wonderful literary experience and a small glimpse of the terrors of the unknown and the confusion that can be wrought by the human psyche. Because of its length, readers will be tempted to consume all of Mapping the Interior in a single sitting, but that would be like chugging a fine wine meant to be sipped and would not do justice to this short, but phenomenal work of art.
I give the book five stars for beautiful writing, fast-pacing, excellent details and last but not least, the #ownvoices author using a modern day off-reservation setting.
In a way, this could be interpreted as a ghost story. In another interpretation it could be thought of a coming of age story-with perhaps a little psychological horror on the side. However it's interpreted, whatever genre it's labeled, the fact remains that it moves the reader. It's a powerful piece of work.
I'm not going to go further into the plot, because I think the reader should discover it for themselves. I know that it brought me back to certain points in my childhood and how I felt about things, but I can't seem to adequately explain how it made me feel. Mapping the Interior resonated deeply with me and I'll have to leave it at that. I give it my highest recommendation.
*Thanks to Tor and to NetGalley for the e-ARC of this novella, in exchange for my honest review. This is it.*