Clementine’s Awakening: Jennifer Soucy
Reviewed By Ben Walker
With Clementine’s Awakening, Jennifer Soucy delivers a helping of creepy Southern Gothic ghostliness, whilst serving up the same level of rich character work she’s known for.
The titular Clementine is a young woman with a lot on her plate – she’s just started work at a supposedly haunted bar where the patrons range from Southern gentlemen to snotty families, with a group of boisterous, take-no-shit colleagues who mostly help her through her new job. At home, her mother isn’t exactly Parent of the Year, providing our hero with constant reminders of a past (and present) she’d rather move past. So when the bar turns out to be more haunted than the staff would like to admit, she first brushes the spirits off as a distraction, until their interference becomes troublesome.
The story starts off pretty similar in mood & setting to Soucy’s previous novel The Night She Fell, but this is a more intimate story, gradually taking a spooky turn as the bar’s ghosts begin to show their true colours. As with Soucy’s previous works, you could quite happily sit and enjoy the slice of life drama she so skilfully draws you in with, to the point where – early on at least – the ghost side of things feels like extra seasoning rather than the main ingredient.
The struggles Clementine faces at the bar, from harassment to heckling, surly chefs to drunken customers, will be familiar to anyone who’s worked a service job before. Imagine that scene from The Terminator where that one little shit dumps their dessert into Linda Hamilton’s apron, amplify that by 50% and add in a side order of lechery from co-workers and patrons alike. That would be more than enough for many of us to deal with, but Clementine is determined to make a go of it no matter what. It’s called Clementine’s Awakening for a reason, as you see her resilience and determination grow with each new day.
So as the ghostly doings ramp up as the story progresses, you’re firmly on Clementine’s side, experiencing the mystery right alongside her as she slowly unravels the bar’s past. Any ectoplasmic encounters are dispensed in short, effective bursts, the plot always wheeling back around quickly to Clementine, her friends, family, and the eventual love interest. This does mean that the spirits sometimes take a back seat to the human cast, but again, the human drama is the core strength of the novel.
All that groundwork in the characters makes for a hugely effective final part, where it’s hard not to grip the edges of your seat as you will Clementine on through a pacy rush of worsening problems and worrying run-ins with a dark spirit. Each time you think you can breathe out and relax, you’re put right back on edge again, right through to the final line, which is pretty much guaranteed to leave you sucking in a breath like “ooooh, you got me!”
Emotional, gripping, tragic and entertaining, if you’ve enjoyed any of Soucy’s previous works then this is an essential addition to your collection. And if you haven’t read any of her stories before, what are you waiting for?
Death is rarely the end in Savannah. Sometimes it’s only the beginning.
Clementine is ready to live her best life, starting with a new job at O’Hara’s Pub. But working as a server isn’t easy for a lifelong wallflower. She encounters a sympathetic ally in Rosemary, but there’s a problem: Rosemary’s a ghost, a former slave trapped for eternity in the pub.
The girls form an unlikely friendship. Clementine offers compassion to the lonely ghost, who defends her by playing harmless pranks on rude customers and cruel co-workers. Their activities soon attract another spirit—Deadeye Abernathy, the madman who murdered Rosemary 150 years ago.
Deadeye joins the fun, turning the pranks into gruesome attacks. Clementine must find a way to stop him before he destroys her friends and the new life she loves. But how can a human survive a battle between two ghosts in the Most Haunted City in America?
Ben got a taste for terror after sneaking downstairs to watch The Thing from behind the sofa at age 9. He’s a big fan of extreme & bizarre horror and well as more psychological frights, and most things in between. When he’s not reading, he’s writing, and when he’s not writing he’s on Twitter @BensNotWriting or reviewing books on his YouTube channel, BLURB.