White Wolf Publishing, $5.99, ISBN 1-56504-937-3
Carma Harrington-Smith Evans is a wealthy widow who spends much of her time these days heavily medicated and barely hanging on to her sanity. She is unable to let go of her dearly departed son Jamie, going as far as to encase the young man’s body in a block of honey and building some kind of shrine around it. When the story opens, she decides to place an advertisement, asking for any “son who has lost mother” out there to get in touch with her, “a mother who has lost son”. Eventually she finds three very different people, all of whom become infatuated with her – or rather, what she represents in their eyes. Her brand of careless and selfish love can be utterly cruel, however, and even toxic.
Bereavements is classified as horror, but its chills are mostly psychological, sometimes psychosexual, in nature. To Angel, a fourteen-year old boy from the poorer part of town, Mrs Evans is both an odd kind of companion and a safe harbor from home, where the boy is caught between a mother determined to die to spite her husband and a father whose interactions with Angel become increasingly sexual in nature. Bruno, a 17-year old aspiring author with plenty of emotional damage, develops an unhealthy infatuation with Mrs Evans because he mistakes her pity and subtle disgust for his appearance to be an act of kindness and compassion. Martin is just looking for a sugar momma to pay his bills, and he’s probably the one who got off the lightest in this story as his mercenary nature prevents him from developing emotional entanglements for her.
The problem here is that Mrs Evans’s devotion is flighty, heavily dependent on her mood as well as her dosage of medication, and at the end of the day, she is a superficial snob who demands that the people around her should live up to her exacting standards. As a result, those orbiting around her, infatuated and loyal to her, often end up debasing and even harming themselves to please her while the poor dear is barely cognizant of what is happening around her.
One thing I have to say: Mr Lortz clearly aspires to a literary style of writing here, because there is not a single purple prose that escapes his fancy. He’d go on and on, often belaboring a single point in at least three different ways, to the point that this book is pretty much 90% of me building up my expectations – all that babbling has to lead up to something, right? – and 10% a climax that, while pretty gripping in how it is written, feels like a big let down after all that babble.
The author has an interesting story here, and some of his more adult scenes (such as those of Angel and his father) can be quite disturbingly raunchy in a “the best of Nifty Archives” way, but I can’t help feeling that the author is far interested in the lint of his navel than anything else here. Bereavements is worth a look, if only for its sometimes haunting portrayal of self-destructive love, but it is too self indulgent in taking its time to actually deliver a satisfying pay-off.
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