Unbury Carol by Josh Malerman

The last time my Book Club (lovingly named “Authora Bookealis) met we discussed the novel Unbury Carol by Josh Malerman. We had purposely picked this book for October because of Halloween, and if Unbury Carol was going to be even remotely as frightening as Malerman’s Bird Box, then it would be a novel aptly picked. (Bird Box is the only novel that has ever given me nightmares!) . Unbury Carol, however, turned out to be something different altogether. So it was a crime story, a western, and a romance with elements of magical realism and a dash of horror.

Our protagonist Carol visits “Howltown” when she dies. And she visits Howltown often, especially when she is under undue stress. While in Howltown Carol can hear the goings-on outside this reality and unfortunately  “she never misheard anything in Howltown. The opposite in fact. For as long as Carol could remember, the things she’d heard as she fell were beyond even the truth of the words themselves. There was the truth of the person behind them.” (pg 23) In this particular visit, Carol learns the violent truth surrounding her husband. Can Carol escape from her purgatory before being buried alive?  Or will she return finding herself in a coffin buried deep within the ground?

Some of my favourite characters? “Rot” is seen as a character, not the corporeal form but an entity that is always “there” in the corner, threatening, reminding others of their mortality.  Rot is a haunting character, but not as menacing as the Smoke. A literary trope of evil incarnate. Smoke, in my opinion, is deserving of a novel all of his own. I would have loved to have learned more of his backstory and motivation.

 I appreciate Malerman’s writing. In both Bird Box and Unbury Carol, he takes a nightmarish concept and uses strong female characters to stoically accept, strategize and conquer an evil force, be it supernatural or human.


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