I’m a huge fan of Caitlin R Kiernan. I have been since I read her weird masterpiece The Drowning Girl last year. I still think that it’s a travesty that the book didn’t win every award that it was possible to win; so beautiful is her prose. I picked up the book that was released prior to The Drowning Girl, The Red Tree, quite a while ago but due to my studies obliterating my ability to read anything like the amount of fiction I would like I have only just gotten around to reading it. I’ve nearly finished the book, and probably will this evening, but there is something about it that has been bugging me.
As with the Drowning Girl Kiernan’s story here is absolutely sumptuous and masterful in its execution. Following the final weeks of bereaved author Sarah Crow as she comes under the fell influence of the titular red tree it is presented as journal kept by Sarah Crow throughout her last weeks at the farm house to which she has fled to hide from her crumbling career. As well as being a masterpiece of Lovecraftian/Cosmic horror The Red Tree is also an intimate character examination of a middle aged woman whose life is crumbling about her whilst she is dealing with the emotional fall out of the suicide of her lover. Basically this book, as with The Drowning Girl, is a fantastic piece of genre fiction that shits from a great height upon the notion that genre fiction is all about plot and lit fic is all about character. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
High praise. So, what is it that’s bugging you so Andy? That’s sticking in your craw to the point that you have to write about this book before you’ve even finished it? Well dear readers… who am I kidding? Dear reader, it is such a small thing that it is faintly ridiculous that it bugs me so. It’s the cover.
So, this a character examination of a middle aged lesbian encountering such stark and unthinkable horrors that it twists her sense of reality, shakes her to her core. Yet someone at ROC thought it was a good idea to put a moody looking early twenty something on the cover making this look like by the numbers paranormal romance or urban fantasy. Talk about mismarketing and misrepresenting the work within. Sarah Crow is 44 years old and broken. She isn’t a 22 year old mysterious and sultry goth girl.* I know that we’re told from a young age not to judge a book by its cover and all that jazz. Unfortunately, when it comes to buying books, that’s exactly what we do. If I had seen this on a book shelf, without having previously read The Drowning Girl, I would have most definitely not have picked it up. I would have assumed it was some kind of a Twilight cash in. When Little Ms. X saw me reading it recently she guffawed and asked if I was reading a kids book. When I explained the plot of the book she looked at the cover unbelievingly. It does this work an immense disservice that it is dressed in the black crushed velvet of a paranormal romance novel.
I honestly can’t recommend this work highly enough and if you see it tucked between some god awful Twilight cash in nonsense at your local book store please, please rescue it and give it a good home. You will be grateful that you did.
Rant over. 😀
*Not that I have anything against mysterious and sultry goth girls. It’s just that this book isn’t about one.