Hard For Hope To Flourish: Melanie Bell, Nyamweya Maxwell, Thomas Ouphe
Reviewed By J.A. Sullivan
In 2020 one of my top reads of the year was the anthology Coppice & Brake published by Crone Girls Press, so when I saw they had a new release I was quick to snap it up. As part of their Midnight Bites series, Hard for Hope to Flourish is a collection of three novellas with three different approaches on the theme of hope. The book also takes the reader on a trip around the world with settings from the Atlantic coast of North America to Nairobi, Kenya, to the Dee Estuary, UK. From a fairy tale of two sisters to a parasitic invasion and wrapping up with a monstrous encounter in a marsh, these tales of quiet horror are sure to delight and terrify readers.
“The Cliffman” by Melanie Bell delivers a story reminiscent of dark childhood fables and will haunt the corners of your mind long after reading. The author introduces us to two school-aged sisters spending summer vacation at a cottage near the beach. While neither is named in the story, Bell provides plenty of detail to distinguish the characters. Their wildly different interests have already formed a schism between the sisters, but the relationship is strained further upon meeting an entity made of rocks known as the Cliffman and the Skywoman who feeds the birds of Heaven with blood. Wonderfully written and infused with magical realism, “The Cliffman” is both beautiful and soul-crushing.
Next in the collection was “Paranoia: The Disappearance of Mr. Boasi Joram Nyaoma” by Nyamweya Maxwell. This story took me a little while to get into, but once I did the payoff was huge. One evening Joram hears someone calling his name in an alley and discovers a man suffering an epileptic fit. As he attempts to aid the man, he witnesses an unimaginable horror, which he fears has driven him to madness because since that day he’s heard voices in his head. But as Joram discovers, just because you’re paranoid it doesn’t mean someone’s not after you. From discussions on healthcare and political corruption to a disturbing scene of body horror, this story is multifaceted and should be read more than once to appreciate all the twists and turns.
Lastly is “The Whispering Marsh” by Thomas Ouphe where a sinister entity stalks the marshland of Parkgate. As a child, Amelia suffered through the devastating disappearance of her father and subsequent tabloid speculation that her mother was behind the crime. Now, on the twentieth anniversary of the disappearance, Amelia’s family has gathered at the edge of the wetlands to give an interview with the BBC and dispel the conspiracy theories that have hounded them all these years. But before they can set the record straight, a new string of disappearances occurs, spurning renewed speculation on the family and opening old wounds. Significantly longer than the other two entries, “The Whispering Marsh” reads like a full novel, filled with rich characters, dynamic relationships, and a building sense of urgency as the story unfolds.
Together these stories are like a mixtape, echoing themes of each other. Melanie Bell’s rich prose felt like being enveloped in a dark daydream, while Nyamweya Maxwell imbibes a sense of overwhelming anxiety, concluding with Thomas Ouphe’s combination of family tragedy and bloodthirsty creatures. Each of these stories grabbed my imagination and I really enjoyed them all.
Whether you’re looking for a twisted fairy tale, an exploration of paranoia versus reality, or a family haunted by the past, you’ll find seeds of hope in all these stories. Crone Girls Press delivers another solid collection with Hard for Hope to Flourish, and I look forward to reading more of their releases as well as future works by all three authors.
Hard For Hope To Flourish
Two sisters follow separate, dangerous paths in search of beauty, magic, and escape from the deadening nature of the prosaic world.
A voice in his head leads Mr. Boasi Joram Nyaoma into a world worse than madness and the slow death of hope.
Tired of the tabloid speculation their father’s disappearance feeds, Amelia finds herself inexorably drawn to the marshland where, over twenty years ago, something called him to his death.
Settle in for three literary tales of quiet horror—stories to chill the blood as the night draws on and the shadows creep closer along the floor.
J. A. Sullivan is a horror writer and paranormal enthusiast, based in Brantford, ON, Canada. Attracted to everything non-horror folks consider strange, she’s spent years as a paranormal investigator, has an insatiable appetite for serial killer information, and would live inside a library if she could.
As curator of “Scary’s Voices” on Kendall Reviews, an article series reviewing horror podcasts, Sullivan loves listening to all things spooky. If you have a horror podcast recommendation, let her know.
On top of contributing short stories to Kendall Reviews, her fiction has appeared in Don’t Open the Door (2019), It Came From The Darkness (2020), and she acted as an assistant editor for Black Dogs, Black Tales (2020). Other spooky tales and updates on her writing journey can be found on her blog.
You can follow J. A. on Twitter @ScaryJASullivan
Check out her blog https://writingscaredblog.wordpress.com
Find her on Instagram www.instagram.com/j.a_sullivan
Find her on Instagram www.instagram.com/j.a_sullivan