M.I.C.H.A.E.L: Jess Doyle
Reviewed By J.A. Sullivan
Almost everyone who believes in the paranormal agrees on one thing – Ouija boards are not something to play around with. But why are people so fearful? Is it because the boards can open a door to the spirit world, allowing communication with both benevolent and sinister entities? Or are the boards themselves something evil? In the novella M.I.C.H.A.E.L. by Jess Doyle, the author looks at all these questions and provides an interesting theory for one specific board.
The story begins in 1998, with Helen visiting the ashes of her recently deceased son, Michael. Pained with grief, hatred for his goth girlfriend boils through Helen as we learn the cremation had not been planned. On the day Michael died, he’d been with his girlfriend, playing with a spirit board before spontaneously bursting into flames.
As the book unfolds, the attention shifts away from Michael to focus on the history of the board itself, in reverse chronological order. There’s a shopkeeper who sold the board to Michael, thankful to be rid of the object. A young girl committed to Bethlem Hospital in 1902 for hysteria after her encounter with a spirit attached to the board. The further back in time the story goes, it’s discovered that evil inhabited the wood of the board long before it was made into a mystical item. The end of the novella reveals the genesis of the board’s power all the way back in the 1600s.
The premise of this book is fantastic. There’s a creepy gothic vibe throughout and the conclusion is especially emotional, with a tale of love and jealousy. However, the narrative method used to tell the entire story was a bit difficult to navigate as a reader. Each chapter in the novella is written like an independent short story, with the only common element through each being the cursed board. So, with each chapter and each jump in time, the reader is introduced to new characters and new circumstances. At times I felt I had just found my bearings in a segment only to find it ended shortly thereafter, making the reading experience quite jarring.
Now there are a few of the chapters, especially at the end of the book, which contains the same characters giving the reader a chance to relate to them and this is where I most enjoyed the story. The last segments, revolving around a brother and sister, really captured my imagination and I wished more of the book involved these characters.
All of the chapters were well written but I felt like they fell into this uncomfortable territory of not being sharp enough to deliver a punchy piece of flash fiction, and not long enough to provide a satisfactory short story experience. But one thing’s for certain, the imagination of the board’s history was impressive, and even though I struggled a bit with the structure of M.I.C.H.A.E.L., I’m excited to see more from author Jess Doyle.
M.I.C.H.A.E.L: Jess Doyle
A ouija board with a dark history has horrific consequences for everyone who comes into contact with it. An innocent young couple are just the latest victims of an all-consuming vendetta that has festered for hundreds of years.
M.I.C.H.A.E.L. traces the ouija board’s malevolent past, delves into secrets and unearths the origin of an obsessive and vengeful spirit.
(cover by Adrian Baldwin)
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.
Her latest short story can be found in Don’t Open the Door: A Horror Anthology (out July 26, 2019), and other spooky tales can be found on her blog. She’s currently writing more short stories, a novel, and reading as many dark works as she can find.
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