{Book Review} Anoka: Shane Hawk

Anoka: Shane Hawk

Reviewed By J.A. Sullivan

One of my greatest joys of being a reader and reviewer is discovering new voices in horror. It’s exhilarating to find authors who turn tropes into something fresh and aren’t afraid to shed light on some of the ugliest layers of the human condition. Shane Hawk does all that and more in his debut collection Anoka.

Within the six short stories of this book, you’ll find a sinister doppelgänger, a necklace of human teeth, insomnia fuelled visions, and the creepiest spider sequence I’ve ever read. Beyond the surface details, these are also tales of grief, family bonds, and generational rage. Tying each entry together is the location of Anoka, Minnesota, known as the “Halloween Capital of the World.” At first glance this town seems to be the perfect setting for tales of horror, but like the stories themselves, Hawk infuses a layered meaning.

As the author writes in the introduction, Anoka comes from a Dakota word meaning “on both sides of the river,” which aptly describes the duality faced by the characters. While some of the stories deal with struggles against society at large, they all deal with an internal conflict that threatens to tear these people apart, such as battles with addiction, loss of hope, and fractured identities.

Orange” was my favourite story in the collection, packing an emotional punch in very few pages. Through an almost stream of consciousness the main character reflects on his life, his actions, and seeks redemption. It’s difficult to discuss this story without spoiling it, but here’s a quick taste of the despair you’ll find: “This bed is quicksand, or one of them finger traps. Try to pull myself out and I’ll just get more stuck.”

Another story that wrapped around me and refused to let go was “Dead America.” As Native American author Chaska battles writer’s block against an upcoming deadline, he’s drawn into his past, remembering conversations with his grandfather, the Ojibwe legend of the dreamcatcher, and spider filled nightmares. Ugh, just thinking about those scenes still gives me shivers! But again, that’s only the surface. The real nightmare is his internal conflict, which you can see in this passage: “Chaska thought to himself, Are defeat and sadness in our blood? Do they pass on with every generation until we forget why we feel this way? Seems like we are a people destined to suffer.”

Shane Hawk ends the collection with his personal notes on each story, sharing the inspirations behind the tales and what he hoped to express within them. If you’re the type of person who normally skips the author notes, I’d encourage you to read these ones. They offer greater insight into the stories and to the author as a whole.

I highly recommend checking out Anoka. Not only are all these tales wonderfully written, but the collection is one you’ll want to reread several times (I have and will again). I cannot wait to see what Shane Hawk produces next.


Welcome to Anoka, Minnesota, a small city just outside of the Twin Cities dubbed “The Halloween Capital of the World” since 1937.

Here before you lie several tales involving bone collectors, pagan witches, werewolves, skeletal bison, and cloned children. It is up to you to decipher between fact and fiction as the author has woven historical facts into his narratives.

With his debut horror collection, Cheyenne & Arapaho author Shane Hawk explores themes of family, grief, loneliness, and identity through the lens of indigenous life.

You can buy Anoka from Amazon UK & Amazon US

J.A. Sullivan

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

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