23. The Elementals – Michael McDowell
Have I ever mentioned on here that I hate sand? I really, really hate sand. I was unaware that this Southern Gothic brilliance was going to involve so much sand and that made it extra scary for me. However, I also have to say the fact that it got off and running from the start also helped. Weirdo southern family tradition stories are always of interest to me in the same way that British manor family dramas are not, which is weird because both types of stories involve secrets that the servants are aware of and totally not telling and stiff silence in place of helpful information. Oh, that family trauma’s going to show up whether you tell them or not. At least in The Elementals, Odessa eventually came around and did explain the whole “let’s stab people at their funeral” thing early on to thirteen year old India, the My Cousin Rachel of the story except for the whole liberated sex thing (Thankfully! I kept waiting for her and her father’s really close relationship to get blatantly incesty and…so happy that wasn’t a thing. They live in New York City. Far away from their family. He takes photos of her all the time. I blame recent television hit Game of Thrones and way too many recently read books where the incest was a total surprise inclusion for making me worry about this.) and the inheritance thing and the possible poisoner thing.
So there are two families, and they both have Victorian summer houses on a little area at the bottom of Alabama called Beldame where they’re going to hang out after the funeral of the mean matriarch of the Savages dies. Side note, the area they’re going to was amazingly easy for me to picture because the nearest town was Gulf Shores, a place I’ve been several times. They don’t really describe it as more than having a laundromat, but, I can tell you it was quite pleasant in the 1990s for Easter. And the new family patriarch of the Savages is Dauphin, which happens to be the name of an island that’s also nearby. When I was there I was not as troubled by sand as I am now. Anyway, there’s a third house and no one lives in it. No one LIVES in it. And those things in there, creating bodies out of sand and making sure it gets into every possible crevice and nook and cranny and other small places, those are not ghosts. They’re a whole different kind of spirit.
Fun fact: There’s a parrot in this book named Nails. Excellent name.