Rookfield: Gordon B. White
Reviewed By Steve Stred
I’ve found this year that people are either totally fine reading books that feature/mention/discuss Covid-19, while others want to stay far away from it, preferring to enjoy some escape from reality and just diving into a world where people don’t need to wear masks or worry about a runny nose.
Gordon B. White took a different route and, at least I think, walked that very thin line between writing a book directly about Covid-19 while writing a book that you could argue is a fictional ‘pandemic’ within its pages.
The book also takes a unique look at a separated couple and their child and is told from the perspective of the parent who would, in most instances, be considered the ‘bad’ parent. It was a lofty idea and White does a great job of tackling it and making us feel empathy when we really shouldn’t or, more accurately, really wouldn’t if this was people we knew.
What I liked: ‘Rookfield’ follows Cabot, a well-off dbag who doesn’t fully believe there’s a pandemic and isn’t one who wants to wear a mask or follow society rules regarding distancing. When he receives a voicemail from his young son, Porter, asking him to come get him, he decides to go, but much to his chagrin, his ex-wife has taken Porter out to her relative’s place in Rookfield, a small town in the middle of nowhere.
At first, White gives us a sense that Cabot has been wronged, and that he should go out and get his son. But it’s through little hints and tip-offs that let us see the ‘why’ behind her taking Porter. Once he gets on the road and has some interactions with people, you also see his entitlement and his ridicule of people. In one telling moment, once in Rookfield, he is giving a ride to someone wearing a mask. The masks that the people in the town wear resemble that of a plague mask, but avian in nature. Cabot tries to tell this individual it’s a plague mask. No, the character replies, it’s a mask after the Rook, the bird the town is named after. To this point, Cabot scoffs and tells the character that it is in fact a plague mask and that the people were just too stupid and called it Rookfield, forgetting the ‘B’ at the start. This seemingly innocent exchange comes full circle later on and it is a pitch-perfect foreshadow that had me smiling when Cabot realized what he’d missed.
White, as mentioned, did a fantastic job of creating a book that tackles Covid-19 head-on, while also creating a book that doesn’t specifically mention the current pandemic once. Well done.
What I didn’t like: Honestly, I felt like we had a lot of hurry up and wait. We knew full well that something insane and crazy was going to happen, but we got to see Cabot be a dbag over and over and how he should’ve just left, like his lawyer told him, and returned with the proper paperwork and authorities.
Why you should buy this: White has created a fantastic entry in the world of ‘small town folklore’ horror and this book zips along. Tension filled and creepy as all heck, this book was a joy to read and see just what the hidden bonkers moments were.
When Cabot Howard’s ex-wife, Leana, flees the pandemic with their son Porter to the backwoods town of Rookfield, Cabot sets off after them. Once he arrives, however, he finds Leana is in hiding, her family won’t hand Porter over, and the townsfolk are deadly serious about always wearing masks. The town’s children dress like little plague doctors and the adults are hellbent on getting Cabot out by nightfall.
Despite being alone and under attack, Cabot won’t leave without his son. Nothing-not ex-in-laws, not the sheriff, not even whatever monstrosity might be lurking in the woods just behind the barn-will stop Cabot from getting them out of … Rookfield.
Steve Stred writes dark, bleak fiction.
Steve is the author of a number of novels, novellas and collections.
He is proud to work with the Ladies of Horror Fiction to facilitate the Annual LOHF Writers Grant.
Steve has appeared alongside some of Horror’s heaviest hitters (Tim Lebbon, Gemma Amor, Adrian J. Walker, Ramsey Campbell) in some fantastic anthologies.
He is an active member of the HWA.
He is based in Edmonton, AB, Canada and lives with his wife and son.
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