In these moody tales mingling family sagas with the fantastic, almost everyone in rural Nova Scotia seems to have a skeleton (or a mermaid) in their closet.
The author of two gothic novels, Conlin (The Memento, 2016, etc.) shows her flair for crafting mystery and suspense even on the smaller stage of the short story. "Dead time" peels back the layers of 15-year-old Isabella's insistence that she didn't murder her boyfriend's ex-girlfriend. A widower carrying on his late wife's tradition of taking her elderly relatives on an annual outing winds up delivering them to an unexpected end in "Full Bleed." And in "The Flying Squirrel Sermon," in the wake of her grandmother's disappearance, a woman travels to her ancestral home to piece together the mystery of "women evanescing." While these stories are deliciously discomfiting, when Conlin hews closer to realism she captures the true horrors of family dysfunction. This is especially true in "Eyeball in Your Throat," which chronicles Lucy's perpetual disapproval of her daughter, Deidre, who flirts with drugs and alcohol and winds up in rehab—only to reveal on the last page just how self-injurious Lucy's lifetime of disappointment is. Conlin has cleareyed sympathy for women trying to get over breast cancer, beastly husbands, sexual abuse, and tragic childhoods; consequently, there aren't many happy endings, though the prose soars effortlessly throughout. When Eve in "Desire Lines" unexpectedly hears from her hippie father, whose negligence led to her 4-year-old sister's death 30 years earlier, she considers the nature of memory, how "even as adults we never stop trying to complete the childhood story. We never stop trying to find the ending."
Suspenseful excavations of family secrets, as smart as they are creepy.