Thursday, February 9, 2017
Women in Horror: Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day
Jenna volunteers nights answering suicide prevention hotline calls and frequents a local diner for coffee and pie. She lives alone with her numerous elderly cats, giving them a home and making them comfortable before they die. She's also been dead for forty years after she ran into a storm when her sister died. For years, her ghostly life has been dedicated to committing small acts of kindness until one day, all of the other New York ghosts are gone except for her and another ghost who never leaves her apartment. Jenna sets out with a witch to find out what happened to the other ghosts and save them if possible.
Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day shows a hidden side of New York where ghosts and witches roam the city undetected by normal people. Ghosts can appear as normal people, hold jobs, pay rent, and do normal people things. They can also take or return time to humans. If they take time from humans, they grow older and closer to their final death which is the point where they would have died naturally. When they give time back to humans, they become younger and the human grows closer to their final death. It took me a little bit to get used to this concept, but it's unique and makes sense. Ghosts can stay around as long or as short as they like before they move on, but on the other hand, they can be exploited for eternal youth for those who know how, namely witches. Witches draw their powers from their particular affinity whether it's corn, iron, or rats. Their powers are considerable, but usually work within the boundaries of the natural order to avoid earth shattering consequences.
Although the main conflict is about missing ghosts, the story is really about Jenna's journey. She's been stuck for forty years. Ghosts can take time from people whenever they want, but Jenna only takes what she perceived that she's earned through preventing suicides as a volunteer for the hotline. Since she died, she's only gained a few years and isn't even close to her final death. She's stuck alone in her grief for her sister and for her own death with small pleasures like pie and good deeds to sustain her. She never truly forgave herself for either death which she viewed as her fault. The missing ghosts motivate her to connect with many people she's sees all the time, but never took the time to get to know. Though this journey, she returns to her home in rural Kentucky to face her past and discover strength she never knew she had in order to save herself and her fellow ghosts.
Dusk or Dawn or Dark or Day is a novella that feels much more dense than it looks. It deals with heavy subjects and has an undercurrent of emotion that makes it more impactful than most urban fantasy stories. Seanan McGuire's stories are always amazing and this one is no different. My only problem was the beginning of the story feeling a little stilted while the world was being established. Once the story moved forward, I was sucked in. Highly recommended as all of Seanan McGuire's stories are.
My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins