Ahoy there me mateys! I received this fantasy eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. So here be me honest musings . . .
unbury carol (Josh Malerman)
Title: unbury carol
Author: Josh Malerman
Publication Date: TODAY!!! (hardcover/e-book)
This book was an odd wonderful mix of western, fantasy, and magical realism with a dash or two of creepiness thrown in.
The story involves a woman named Carol who “dies” frequently and yet always has awakened. These deaths take the form of a coma where she appears to be dead but is instead transported into another place where she has the sensation of continuously falling, can’t move, can’t see, and yet can hear the conversations around her. She never knows how long these spells will last and has kept the condition a secret from everyone in her present and past except for her long-dead mother, her husband, and her recently deceased best friend.
With only her husband remaining, she goes into a coma only to realize that her husband has no intention of letting her come back to life. He declares her dead and Carol has no hope. Or so she thinks. But there was one other person who knew her secret long ago and ran away out of fear . . .
There are many aspects of the story that I loved. The setting was an enormous forest with one trail that is a menace to all travelers. The trail begins at one town and leads to series of others on a path, which eventually ends at another town far south. There is seemingly no other outlet to the outside world. These settlements feel like western towns complete with saloons, general stores, brothels, and lots of outlaws. Of course there are the other more genteel members of the towns with money as well. Carol being one of them.
The outlaws are the absolute fun of the novel. There is the notorious “magical” outlaw, James Moxie, who has been retired from the trail and is on a mission to redeem himself. There is the delightfully insane outlaw, Smoke, who has been hired to stop him and has definitely earned his name. There are several others who have individual quirks and fun perspectives. I very much enjoyed all of their viewpoints. There also be perspectives from Carol, her jerk of a husband, the sheriff, and others.
The novel takes place over the course of a couple of days and is mixture of quiet thoughtful sections and outlaw action vignettes. The downside of the novel for me was that Carol is almost a non-entity in the story due to being “dead.” It’s not her fault and makes sense in the novel but I would have liked for some true action from her. I also didn’t love the conclusion of the novel. I did like the otherworldly elements and the lack of many good explanations though I can see how others wouldn’t.
I am glad I read this hard-to-define zany novel and will be trying others by the author for sure.
So lastly . . .
Thank you Random House!
Goodreads has this to say about the novel:
Carol Evers is a woman with a dark secret. She has died many times . . . but her many deaths are not final: They are comas, a waking slumber indistinguishable from death, each lasting days.
Only two people know of Carol’s eerie condition. One is her husband, Dwight, who married Carol for her fortune, and—when she lapses into another coma—plots to seize it by proclaiming her dead and quickly burying her . . . alive. The other is her lost love, the infamous outlaw James Moxie. When word of Carol’s dreadful fate reaches him, Moxie rides the Trail again to save his beloved from an early, unnatural grave.
And all the while, awake and aware, Carol fights to free herself from the crippling darkness that binds her—summoning her own fierce will to survive. As the players in this drama of life and death fight to decide her fate, Carol must in the end battle to save herself.
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