Publisher: Pantheon. July 2015
Genre: Literary Fiction, Horror
ADD TO GOODREADS
BUY FROM INDIEBOUND
BUY FROM BOOK DEPOSITORY
When Emily Ryan is found drowned in the family pool, pumped full of barbiturates and alcohol, a series of events with cataclysmic consequences ensues. Emily’s lover, a college professor, finds himself responsible for her twin daughters, whose piercing stares fill him with the guilt and anguish he so desperately tries to hide from his wife. A low-level criminal named The Gonk takes over the cottage of a reclusive elderly artist, complete with graveyard and moonshine still, and devises plans for both. His young apprentice, haunted by inner demons, seeks retribution for the professor’s wicked deeds. The town itself, buzzing into decadent life after sundown, traps its inhabitants in patterns of inexplicable behavior all the while drawing them toward a night in which the horror will reach its disturbing and inevitable conclusion. - Goodreads
The Captive Condition has some intense Twin Peaks and True Detective vibes. The small town location is gritty and unsettling. The multiple characters the story jumps between are bizarre, harbor terrible secrets, and are always watching one another. Another similarity: There are a startling amount of surreal aspects that happen so quickly and casually, it's hard to tell what's reality and what's some character's dark hallucinations.
"The problem is this: Normandy Falls, in all its gruesome comedy, in all its colorful and agreeable horror, could never properly prepare me for the experiences that awaited me on the other side of those gates. Regrettably, the best I can do is render one version of that unhappy fiasco, and I must rely on my imperfect memory, a thing that, like the Wakefield River, flows with maddening predictability in one direction only, far from its mysterious and secret source."
The book is being narrated by a college dropout who fancies himself a writer. A lot of the language slowed down my reading of the book significantly. Not because I was too dumb to understand it, but because it would take a hefty paragraph to say something that could take a sentence. Whether or not this was a stylistic choice due to the main character's situation, the overload of adjectives, adverbs, and similes made the book more of a chore to read than I had wanted it to be. Oftentimes, because I would get lost in the flood of words, it was hard to keep track of what was going on in the plot or what exactly was motivating the characters.
With that said, the story really did pick up after 200 pages. It started to get pretty weird, with some potentially supernatural presences. The characters' stories started to come together to several very dramatic, slightly surreal conclusions. That level of strange darkness was really cool to experience. It just would have been great to have experienced it throughout the rest of the book.
"When the delirium of love dies and the asphyxiating cloud of romantic ruin finally dissipates, the bruised and battered survivors will often find lurking among the rubble and ashes of the human heart an insidious beast who yearns to wreak more havoc."
HOW OUTLANDISH WAS IT?
6/10 - It starts to get a little supernatural and strange near the end, though that isn't really explained.