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Where You Live Paperback – November 28, 2013
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Top Customer Reviews
Usually when readers praise a writer's imagination they're impressed by the number of whimsical places and creatures he can describe. But it requires a powerful imagination to explore our dread of mortality within the common spaces of modern life--between the office and home, or on a weekend drive in the country--and to make the exploration compelling. McMahon has imagination to spare. He visits seemingly ordinary people just before they encounter or admit something terrible. More often than not, the horror they face corresponds to inner turmoil. Husbands and wives all but wreck one another with love. Fathers are so afraid of failure and vulnerability, they become the monsters their children dream about.
If the settings and characters seem, at first glance, mundane, remember that these are only starting points. The explicit dangers of the actual world, where everyone must die, are woven together with the mysterious and the numinous, often in magnificent patterns.
McMahon clearly aims to get us "where we live," offering familiar guides with nametags askew, to lead us into something horrific. And maybe home again.
In “Just Another Horror Story,” a couple in the middle of a torrid love affair check into a hotel room for a night of debauchery. Little do Terry and Nancy know what actually awaits them. This tale was a great introduction to Mr. McMahon’s work. While I was able to anticipate some of the twists and turns in it I was pleasantly surprised by how often he made me second-guess my predictions about what would happen next.
“Trog Boy Ran” is by far the best story in this collection. Shortly Niles Reedman responds to a recent, painful breakup by stalking his ex-girlfriend and very odd things begin to occur around him. The pacing in this piece is so well done it felt almost cinematic. As disturbing as it was for me to step into the mind of a chilling and extremely dangerous protagonist, I couldn’t stop reading until I reached the end of Niles’ adventure.
I desperately wanted to like “The Chair.” In it a boy named Ben battles with despair, loneliness and an undisclosed malaise as his mother struggles with her own mental illness. The introduction caught my attention right away, but I had trouble understanding the symbolism of certain objects in Ben’s life and well as what was happening in the final scene. The sequel to this tale, “The Table,” answers some questions before asking the reader to sort out a brand new batch of them. The concept is alluring, but given the subtlety of what is happening these particular stories may have worked better as a novella.
This pattern repeats itself a few other times in this collection. Every entry includes at least one surprising, frightening, or unexpected element, but some of their horrors are a little difficult to unravel. I found something I really enjoyed about every single tale. That isn’t something that normally occurs for me when I review larger anthologies. Had a little more time been spent planting clues about what was truly happening in the tales that skipped over as much exposition as possible this book would have easily earned a much higher rating.
Save some time to savour the story notes at the end of this novel. Reading them made me feel like I was sitting down with Mr. McMahon to have a personal conversation about where his ideas come from and why he wrote certain characters the way he did. This section is a definite highlight of the novel, but it should be saved until the very end to avoid spoilers.
Where You Live is a solid collection of psychological horror. It’s a good choice for anyone in the mood for a thought-provoking, understated read that becomes more frightening the more one thinks about what they just read.
originally posted at long and short reviews