Saturday, May 10, 2008

"Mom and Dad at Home" by Ed Gorman

Sam Culver is an eleven year old boy who adores his father. He loves his mom, but his dad is everything he wants to be--cool, handsome, gracious, well-liked, and funny. Sam's father is on the road a couple weeks each month, which bothers both Sam and his mom, but when he comes home he always has gifts; and his absence makes his presence all the more wondrous.

But Sam can see the strain on his mother. She's looking old in young Sam's eyes and it's not odd to find her alone in the dark crying. She's always kind and warm, but she has an underlying current of fear and sorrow. To tell more would spoil the story, but rest assured it only gets better from here.

"Mom and Dad at Home" is an atmospheric, subtle and moody story of dark suspense. There are no stomach dropping moments of terror, or gruesome, nauseating scenes of violence, but instead Ed Gorman develops the story through the viewpoint of an innocent and trusting young boy. It is a coming of age story that has elements of early-Stephen King, but is told in a style that is all Gorman. The prose is lean, the dialogue slight and to the point, the voice lower-middle class, and the plot develops slowly and ominously toward a crushing revelation.

"Mom and Dad at Home" fits nicely in the horror genre, but it's a little more--it says something dark about society, the unsteady relationship between the sexes, and the trust a boy has for his father. And, perhaps more importantly, it creates an image of a slow and devastating journey of love, deception and fear as the story spreads itself across the broad spaces of the working-class. It's also terrifically entertaining from the first paragraph to the last, and a story you'll want to read more than once.

"Mom and Dad at Home" was published in Richard Chizmar's Shivers IV in 2006.

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