If you make a fairly basic silhouette of the front of an american trunk, then flip it upside down, it looks remarkably like a stylized skull… Now I will admit that seems like an odd observation, and in many ways it is entirely irreverent, but at the same time little observations like that please me a ridiculous amount. It is also the iconography used in chapter heads and on the cover of a remarkably entertaining, thoughtful, funny, and in parts spine chilling book by Joseph Fink and I am a sucker for little touches like that.
The book is something of a splendid oddity, a road trip horror, up and down the back-roads of america in a truck. The America described in the novel has a similar feel to Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, while at the same time feeling like a Stephen King novel, if Stephen King got in a truck and actually drove himself out of Maine. There’s also more than a touch of the surreal, Twin peaks, Northern Exposure, Eire Indiana in there too. The humor is tinged with horror , the horror is tinged with humor. Everything is the kind of strange that is just firmly rooted enough in reality that it managed to seem strange and yet familiar at the same time. That uncanny awkward kind of strange that you occasionally glimpse in your peripheral vision, then when you turn you head to get a better look you know you will realize you were mistaken, or just hope you will be.
I was recommended this by a friend and fellow Harvey Duckman writer @WritesAmy and it was a hell of a recommendation because I ate it up, I consumed the novel in a few long nights when I should have been sleeping and only my eyelids refusing to stay open prevented the hunger for more that drove me through the book from finishing it in one cannibalistic sitting. (there is a couple of jokes in all that I’m not going to explain.)
While the recommendation was a great one it was also a little uncanny and odd because Amy recommended it after reading my novel Cider Lane and I can’t see any connection between the two books apart form they both deal with loss and the isolation it brings, much like Passing Place another of my novels which has more in common with Alice Isn’t Dead. But whatever the reason I am glad she did because this is a fine novel. Dark, and twisted in places, yet holding a little hope, like a flickering candle at the same time. the synopsis alone was enough to make me want to read it once it she brought to my attention.
Keisha Lewis mourned the loss of her wife, Alice, who disappeared two years ago. There was a search, there was grief beyond what she thought was possible. There was a funeral.But then Keisha began to see her wife, again and again, in the background of news reports from all over America.
Alice isn’t dead. And she is showing up at the scene of every tragedy in the country.
Keisha shrugs off her old life and hits the road as a trucker – hoping on some level that travelling the length of the country will lead her to the person she loves.What she finds are buried crimes and monsters (both human and unimaginable), government conspiracies, haunted service stations and a darkness far older than the highway system it lies beneath.
It only gets better from there, and there is a a great deal to unpack, so I’m not going to. If you want a real recommendation it is this, I wish I had written it. hell I wish I had the imagination to do so. It a road trip of weird and wonderful proportions. The plot is complex, interweave, multilayered and yet realized beautifully. It’s also a book that has much to say about America and American society. Take the supernatural elements out of the story and it still has the rings of deep truth about it. Its beautifully sprawling and takes on the scope of the endless American highways and the strange places you find alongside them.
So as it was recommended to me, I recommend it to you, read it, consume it, love it. (and the fact that trucks look like skulls upside down…..)