PRETTY MARYS ALL IN A ROW by Gwendolyn Kiste, Broken Eye Books p/b $9.99 84 pages, ISBN: 978-1-940372-31-0, www.brokeneyebooks.com
Reviewed by Pauline Morgan
Wherever there are people, there are going to be urban legends, the things that always happen to a friend of a friend. It seems odd that so many of these apparitions ga by the name of Mary. There is Bloody Mary (Red) – stand before a mirror at midnight and call her name three times and she will appear dripping blood. Mary Mack carries her coffin on her back and wanders through churchyards. Resurrection Mary (Rhee) haunts the highway, a ghostly hitchhiker. These and two others live, or perhaps haunt, a decaying house that may also be a ghost. They live off the fear they generate in live humans.
At the point where this novella opens, only Red and Rhee are able to scare people enough to feed them all. The problem is that the other three are fading. If you can’t be seen, you can’t scare anyone. And there is a darkness. Rhee sees it only as an amorphous shadow to begin with but it is getting stronger and she doesn’t know what it wants.
Although her job is scaring people, Rhee does have a living friend, David, who she meets on the highway. If circumstances had been different their relationship might have been romantic. David wants to help and is trying to find out who she was and how she died. This suddenly seems important to solving the problems the ghosts have, especially as her abilities are increasing as those of the others fade.
There have been stories told from the perspective of a ghost before but many of them are cheats, revealing the truth only at the last moment. This is different. Not only do we know that the ‘Marys’ are ghosts right from the start but we see their dilemmas and follow the strategies they have for coping with their changed circumstances. Most ghosts are credited with motives for hanging around; the ‘Marys’ don’t know who they were before or how they died, only the archetypes they represent. The crucial aspect of this novella is that while archetypes are the pattern on which much can be based, understanding them means that they can be changed.
This is a neat little book containing more than might be expected from its length. Reccommended.