Thursday, August 18, 2011
by Sandy DeLuca
Published by Uninvited Books
Back in the seventies young Julia developed a thirst for bad boys so lusty it could not be quenched by any run of the mill rebel-without-a-cause biker. And so, ignoring the cryptic warnings of her Wiccan aunt and dead brother, she made a play for a disciple of Satan whose idea of a weekend getaway was a multi-state killing spree.
Alas, Julia learns too late the most important relationship law The Rules failed to cover: A man with a taste for a homemade blood/semen cocktail is likely not boyfriend material. The union, needless to say, does not have a storybook ending, unless you’re into fairytales stocked with Deliverance sexcapades and motel room crucifixions.
Descent opens a few decades later. Broken by a past she cannot put behind her, Julia appears determined to self-sabotage any prospect of happiness, perhaps as an act of penance, perhaps because as a painter she cannot afford the necessary therapy. “Loneliness is a bitch,” she muses. “But memories can be even worse.” Trouble is, Julia’s memories aren’t content to remain locked in her mind anymore—they seep out into the real world, possess friends and acquaintances, make sudden appearances like quick cuts in horror flick. Around this mystery of what is and what is not real, Sandy DeLuca constructs a trippy, altered state narrative. Is Julia truly being haunted by demons bound and determined to prove Faulkner’s oft-quoted maxim, “The past is not dead. In fact, it is not even past”? Or is she suffering hallucinogenic reverberations from the trauma that withered the flower of her youth?
“Sanity visits me now and then, but never stays long,” Julia says, appearing to make the case for the former.
“How do you make them see that the monsters are real—that the dead really do come back?” she later asks, suggesting the latter.
It is a testament to DeLuca’s authorial prowess that both explanations feel plausible throughout the book. When the final wave at long last breaks, the dénouement is richly imagined enough to leave you wishing DeLuca was not so brief in her exploration of it. I would have liked to see her delve a little more deeply into the transcendent implications of the specters that emerge from Julia’s paintings as well. These are, however, minor quibbles. DeLuca’s taunt, fast-paced yarn draws you in and screws with your equilibrium, much like those demons Julia glimpses out of the corner of her eye.
Buy it here.
Reviewed by Shawn Macomber
Shawn Macomber is a Miami based writer whose work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Reason, Radar, Yankee, The Weekly Standard,the Los Angeles Times, National Review, and Decibel, among many other fine and middling publications. He has reported from five continents covering everything from combat in Iraq, riots in the Baltics, and two presidential elections to designer cat shows at Madison Square Garden, the cross Carrot Top bears, and the Carcass “Exhumed to Consume” reunion tour. His story "Demon Envy" will appear in Shroud #12. More info at www.shawnmacomber.net