Sunday, January 28, 2007

January 28th New York Times Book Review

Best Review Ever!

Says Terrence Rafferty of The Keeper:

The most satisfying of the genre’s recent rage extravaganzas, though, is Sarah Langan’s first novel, THE KEEPER (HarperTorch, paper, $6.99). Like Little, Langan is interested in the release of pent-up anger from reasonable gripes: in this case, the source is the indignity visited, year after grinding year, on the residents of a fictional New England factory town.

The story begins a month after the closing of the Clott Paper Mill in Bedford, Me. The town — what’s left of it at the end of a decade or so of layoffs and wearying attempts to deny the writing on the wall — is depressed, uncertain, quietly panicky. Among the many unhealthy forms this collective unease takes, along with alcoholism, domestic abuse and a pervasive meanness of spirit, are shared nightmares, which focus on the most visibly wretched member of the community: a mute, disturbed, flagrantly promiscuous young woman named Susan Marley. While she’s alive, she’s the embodiment of her neighbors’ fears for themselves — and when she dies, her hold on the sad, sick town becomes even more powerful. In death, Susan Marley comes into her own, and so, in an appropriately abandoned, self-immolating way, does Bedford.

“The Keeper” — which is richly populated with small-town characters at varying stages of emotional crisis, from numb puzzlement to unshakable bitterness to abject despair — is as angry as any of the other novels I’ve been discussing, but it’s the only horror story I’ve read recently that finds adequate metaphors for the self-destructive properties of anger.

“Their rage at what had been done to them had no place to go but within,” Langan writes of the people of Bedford, and you can feel it throughout “The Keeper,” growing like a cancer and debilitating the town until this entire complex social organism has no will but the will to merciful oblivion. And that’s when rage becomes truly horrifying: when everyone has forgotten how the poison got into the system and no one knows, or cares, how to get it out.