AFTERBIRTH by PETER CREASON
book review BRENT ARMOUR
Afterbirth by Peter Creason
When mentioning to a few of my peers in publishing that I would be reviewing a novel titled Afterbirth, the most common response was; “Oh. Gross.” Yes, it’s all part of the miracle of nature, but it’s also a word that makes us squirm a bit. Babies are great, but what comes after them isn’t so cute. I tried to defend the title, as I hadn’t yet read the book, by postulating that maybe this wasn’t about physical things, but more about time. The time after one is born. I was only five pages in when I realized the unlikelihood of this defense holding up. Creason’s mastery at cringe worthy language is apparent right away. Fortunately, it is indeed mastery.
The story, will all of its nasty bits, is written so skillfully that you not only don’t mind the raunch, you also wouldn’t mind a bit more. It doesn’t hurt that he fluctuates so effortlessly between setting the historical background of the scene to pulling you in, so close that you can smell the sweat on the flesh. The style reminds me of Anne Rice’s The Witching Hour, except Creason pulls off something that Rice didn’t even seem to attempt. He weaves the history into the story instead of forcing you to plod through the bulk of it to get to the good stuff.
And there is a lot of history in Afterbirth, as well as a lot of good stuff. The southern town of Lafayette is still ruled by its six remaining plantations. But the nation is now on the cusp of the Second World War, and things like family names and heritage don’t matter as much to a town that’s long ago escaped the pre-Civil War era. Owner of one of these plantations is Tucker Finn, and he has a plan to bring the town’s focus back to its oldest, and once most powerful families. He’s hearing wedding bells, but not for himself. For his son, nicknamed ‘Dreamer’ and the six other “Sons of Lafayette”. Dreamer has seemed less and less likely to move forward in his life as of late, and so Tucker moves heaven and earth with his social pull to find a bride for him and for each other young plantation heirs.
Everything seems to go off without a hitch until World War Two begins and the husbands each fulfill their perceived obligations to their country by volunteering. The wives are left with time to fill, and the devote it to the worn out town, cleaning up the Pastor and building a church in the hopes that religion might give their neighbors the infusion of life that the weddings failed to accomplish. Their Pastor, however, is soon replaced by a new, strangely powerful and enigmatic figure. What are his intentions? Something strange and deeply disturbing is amiss, but only one of the wives, Elba Finn, seems to notice that a dark and twisted path awaits the wives of Lafayette.
I was most stricken by the handling of taboo in Afterbirth. I will always applaud an author who takes on topics and situations that most won’t touch with a ten foot pole, but Creason receives a standing ovation from me. Just as often as my eyes were widening at the thrilling twists and turns, they were popping out at the sheer fact that he ‘went there’. But as I said before, these situations left me a lot less uncomfortable than I would have thought.
There’s also a bit of your more classic themes to fill in the gaps. The evil preacher man, the voodoo priestess; but the monsters, especially in their origins, are to my knowledge unprecedented in their cringe-worthiness. Creason holds the reader’s hand and guides them into their necessity. The plot is structured as more of a pulp horror, but there’s plenty of depth hidden between the lines, jumping out at you and shielding your eyes from the gore.
The motives of the characters may not be completely clear at times, but the motives of the author, and what he’s trying to say about mankind (emphasis on the man) ring true without being overbearing or mucking up the fun of the novel. It’s been a long time since I experienced a duel reaction to a novel in this way, and I would highly recommend this work to those looking for a truly surprising, cringe inducing, yet thought provoking read.
Afterbirth, 2013 Smashwords
Bent Armour is Editor in Chief of HelloHorror.
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