A striking work of psychological horror and unblinking terror from bloody fantasist Tremblay (Disappearance at Devil’s Rock, 2016, etc.)
In this peek-between-your-fingers work of domestic horror, the Bram Stoker Award–winning author demonstrates a counterintuitive maturity in his writing even as he inflicts the cruelest possible scenarios on his unwitting victims. Here the author has stripped his narrative back to the most threadbare elements in a tale that is nearly impossible to review without unveiling some critical shocks. The moving parts are surprisingly mundane. There is a longtime couple, Eric and Andrew, who have taken a well-earned vacation in a remote cabin near a lake in rural New Hampshire. There is their kiddo, Wen, an adopted and much-loved Chinese girl who is portrayed in a rich, endearing, and authentic way throughout the story. There are four strangers from disparate parts of the country, two men and two women bearing medieval-looking makeshift weapons, who come to convey an unbearable proposition. Other than their common quest, there is nothing particularly extraordinary about these strangers—a bartender, a nurse, a line cook, and a roughneck who may or may not be who he claims. “Your dads won’t want to let us in, Wen,” says their leader. “But they have to. Tell them they have to. We are not here to hurt you. We need your help to save the world. Please.” In a grave choice that meets all the dramatic principles of Anton Chekhov, there is a gun. Tremblay masterfully switches perspectives during the book’s most dramatic moments, offering only hints at how the quartet’s strange mission originated but fully seizing upon this family’s personal shock and distress. As the story unfolds, Tremblay introduces bloody violence, a sweeping, agonizing consequence that may or may not be real, and a series of episodes that lead these troubled souls toward a disquieting and macabre conclusion.
A blinding tale of survival and sacrifice that matches the power of belief with man’s potential for unbridled violence.