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Review: Horror novel 'Grandmother' combines homecoming and horror

Title: Grandmother

Author: Gregory M. Thompson

Publisher: Fear Front Publishing

Publication Year 2016

(Warning! minor spoilers in review)

Gregory Thompson's novel 'Grandmother' is an ambitious attempt to combine a human interest story (a man visiting his grandmother and revisiting his past) with supernatural horror in a manner that seems reminiscent of Stephen King's earlier work. The basic plot involves a writer returning to an important place from his childhood to visit his beloved grandmother, whom he feels he hasn't made enough time for, and at the same time hopes to finish the novel he has been working on. The story is something sure to pique the interest of those who enjoy King's storytelling as seen in books such as his seminal vampire novel "Salem's Lot'.

But while "Grandmother' has definite potential, it is only partially successful. There are some good elements to the book, but it left me wanting more. The book opens with writer Samuel Taylor returning to his grandmother's Midwestern farmhouse, bringing his typewriter along to this isolated place. We're introduced to Samuel through a lot of detail about his career as a teacher and his passion for writing. However, things soon take a different turn, when during his visit, he discovers that she has a supernatural secret -- she can foresee the future.

As the story progresses, Grandmother reveals that her visions of coming events are provided by competing forces -- benign and demonic. The main action centers around the characters trying to prevent certain dire events before they can happen, and their relationship becomes strained in the process. A love story is also woven into the plot, which somewhat predictably, but nonetheless satisfyingly contrasts a nostalgic view of the past with a grim one.

The problem that I did have with the story, however, is that the plot elements seem to demand a larger book. Despite the intimate scope of the story, it combines a variety of ideas that need more room to breathe (a subplot involving a serial killer feels a bit compressed and rushed). Though, I don't want to ruin the story with any big spoilers here, I will say that the climax introduces a plot element that I felt needed more development than is provided.

Thompson's prose is generally good and the characters are likable. He puts a great deal of detail in to introduce the characters, and make them relatable, yet some things remain a bit of a mystery. I would certainly like to know more of the background of Samuel's grandfather--but it's hard to say whether these facts should be in this story, or if they were intended to be revealed in another book some day. Though, not a badly written book, if it were longer and able to build its horror/fantasy elements more subtly, it would probably be a breath of fresh air in a genre that needs it.

Thompson is definitely a writer to keep an eye on. "Grandmother' contains elements that, with exactly the right idea and proper restraint, could yield a great book.

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