{Book Review} Punishment By Hope: Erik Hofstatter

Punishment By Hope: Erik Hofstatter

Reviewed By J.A. Sullivan

The first time I was exposed to surrealist art was visiting the Salvador Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida. Bizarre and frightening images bombarded me through the gallery, challenging my perception of what art could be and express. A long time has passed since then, but I still remember the wonderment I experienced that day, and to my absolute delight I was awash with those same emotions when I read Punishment by Hope by Erik Hofstatter. Dreams and nightmares fuse together in this tale, exploring subconscious symbolism, sexuality, destruction, and rebirth.

As with all works of surrealism, you need to simultaneously abandon and embrace logic, so grab a life vest and dive into these menstrual soaked seas with main character Nim. Under the guidance of a giant half-lizard, Nim is tasked with collecting canisters at the albatross border in the sea from his forbidden love. Erotic delusions, and perhaps memories, flood through Nim each time he sees her, building to lust fuelled desperation. His anguish attracts the attention of a shapeshifting jellyfish who offers to help unite these lovers, but sometimes getting what you want is a worse fate than pining over something you can never have.

Hofstatter’s prose is rich and poetic in style, using vivid and complex imagery which at times is beyond beautiful and in other moments is absolutely grotesque. This short story ebbs and flows like the tide, pulling the reader to sympathise with lovelorn Nim, only to turn around and leave you feeling repulsed by his actions. Most books of this length (60 or so pages) are regarded as snack-sized for voracious readers, but this is not one of them. The author has created a feast in a small package, which should be devoured slowly and thoughtfully. Much like surrealist paintings, there is so much going on in this tale, both at and below the surface, I’d suggest rereading the story several times.

In addition to Nim’s adventure, Punishment by Hope also includes the short stories “Redclover” and “Tender Whisper on a Crimson Tongue,” plus some micro-poetry, which were also masterfully written. Due to their length, it’s difficult to review them without spoilers, but I will say they continue to assault the reader with themes of lust, love, and the illusion of hope. As one character says to another, “Happiness is a myth. You feed him poisoned hope,” which is truly the heart of this collection.

If surrealism, bizarre fiction, and exploring social taboos are experiences you enjoy, Erik Hoffstatter’s Punishment by Hope should be at the top of your reading list. I loved every minute of this nightmare-scape and cannot wait to see what Hofstatter creates next.

Punishment By Hope

Nim is a master swimmer floating on waves of wet hope. His penance is to swim and carry, but his heart is held onboard a grieving ship in the aquamarine prison of her eyes.

She is his sentence and he is hers. Will a mysterious humanoid jellyfish reunite the star-crossed lovers?

You can buy Punishment By Hope 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

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.