To Wallow In Ash & Other Sorrows: Sam Richard
Reviewed By Steve Stred
This may very well be the single hardest book I’ve ever read for review.
Consisting of nine stories, ‘To Wallow in Ash & Other Sorrows,’ is literally one of two reasons Richard is alive.
The collection begins with an introduction from the author. I know some people love those, some hate them, but this one is completely necessary but also devastating in its reason.
Richard lets us know that his wife passed away suddenly, from an undiagnosed connective tissue issue. This caused an aneurysm. She was gone in her early 30’s. So, Richard is now alive for only two reasons; their dog, who he doesn’t want to leave with the unknown of what will happen to their fur-kid and writing. His outlet.
The collection covers a variety of genres, each feeling like a snippet into the harrowing grief that Richard was dealing with when he was writing the story.
It opens with a story that feels all too personal. I read it and felt a bit awful after, as though I’d accidentally been invited to a private conversation. It showed that, while Richard was absolutely devastated, he was going to attack the stories with no filter. Completely raw and bleak, you’ll read this and love how beautiful it is but also just how it makes your skin crawl.
The melancholy throughout felt like I was watching a My Dying Bride album come to life, the drums slow, the guitar only coming in for spurts of decay, keeping things moving along.
I’m not going to focus too much more on the stories that follow the opener, because these stories need to be read, digested and thought on by each reader.
This collection hits all of the notes you’d want, but the absolute soul-crushing despair that Richard brings to each piece should be experienced on their own merit and with as little pre-knowledge as possible.
I know I’ll be letting this sit for a few months and then I’ll re-read it. I don’t normally read things I’ve already read, but this collection has such depth and texture, that I know I’m going to want to dive back in and let the worlds Richard’s created open again and expand.
This is a book I truly want to recommend, but I also want to say – read at your own peril. It is dark, hurting and the words weep from the page.
To Wallow In Ash
Written during the black-depths of early widowhood, To Wallow in Ash & Other Sorrows explores grief, loss, and the alluring comforts found within the heart of oblivion. Written in the spirit of J.G. Ballard, Georges Bataille, and Kathe Koja, these nine Sorrows are a cross-section of literary splatterpunk, transgressive fiction, and weird horror, which seek to illuminate the terror, dread, and discomfort of mourning through the black mirror of the grotesque.
This book is full of pain. This book is full of tears. This book is full of ash.
Steve Stred is the author of a number of novels, novellas and collections. He has appeared in anthologies with some of Horror’s heaviest hitters.
He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada with his wife, son and their dog OJ.
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