Reopening Room 217

“FEAR stands for fuck everything and run.” 

Dan Torrance escaped the Overlook hotel with his mother when he was a child, but he could not escape the shining.

Dan eventually learns to lock away the rotting corpses that haunt him, but as he grows up, he cannot lock away his need to drink. For years, he follows in his father’s footsteps, trying to black out the shining with liquor. He tries to bury the horrors and despair in bottles and pitchers.

You’d think this is when they would take him, when he is weak. When he is at his bottom.

But it is years later, when Dan is sober and working at a hospice as “Doctor Sleep,” using his shining to help people die in peace, that evil finds him again.

The True Knot travels across America’s highways in RVs and Winnebagos with cheery bumper stickers, canes and polyester suits. Looking like typical retirees roaming through truck stops and tourist traps, they scour the country for special children. Children who shine.

They torture; they maim. They slowly devour the children with shining and eat the “steam” which comes out of them when they are dying.

The steam helps the True Knot stay alive as they keep roaming and killing. They are almost immortal, until they meet Abra Stone.

Abra has a shining so great that she reaches out to Dan when she is only a couple months old. She shines right into his mind while he is sitting at an AA meeting, beginning a relationship that slowly develops as she grows older.

Though Abra makes spoons stick to the ceiling and music play in the air, her shining isn’t something to be dealt with until she witnesses a boy’s murder at the hands of the True Knot. As she watches them lick his blood off their hands, they sense her.

And once they know Abra exists, a little girl with a shining so bright they can feel it across the country, they have to have her. To eat her.

This long-awaited sequel to “The Shining” is a gruesome and exciting thriller that any reader who feared the woman in Room 217 will enjoy. Anyone who wishes for a little more REDRUM. Anyone who still dreams about the hedges moving when they are alone in bed at night.

“Doctor Sleep” by Stephen King is about what happens after the nightmare is over. Or when you think it’s over because it doesn’t really end.

It follows you home.

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Our inevitable ending

Ruth awakens one night to the sounds of a tiger in her isolated seaside home. She can hear its breath, heaving in and out. She can almost feel its large, furry body rubbing up against her furniture. As the tiger paces, she is overwhelmed with memories of her childhood in Fiji. She is scared, but she’s not. She finally sleeps.

The next day, Frida shows up at Ruth’s door. A large, boisterous woman, Frida tells Ruth that she is a government caregiver. A spot opened up, and she is there to help Ruth with daily tasks. Ruth lets her in, and Frida begins to cook and clean around the house. Ruth is widowed, living alone and has back pain, so though she resents the help, she also welcomes it.

Ruth is not stupid, but she is hopeful. Though she knows that there may be aspects to Frida that she is not aware of, she cannot help but hope that Frida is really there to help – that sometimes people are there for others, not just out of necessity but out of the goodness of their hearts.

As the days pass and Frida becomes more ingrained in Ruth’s daily life, Ruth’s memories of Fiji press more strongly upon her. The tiger returns to haunt her at night. Frida moves into an extra bedroom in Ruth’s home. An old swain comes back to visit. Ruth is scared, elated and confused in turn.

McFarlane’s prose is bewitching, drawing us into Ruth’s befuddled existence with unapologetic beauty and great sadness. She explores the descent into old age and the ensuing struggle with dependence and trust. The result is a rich, heartbreaking story that exposes us to the vulnerability of loneliness and the malleability of memory.

“The Night Guest” will touch anyone who has felt powerless in his or her own ability to hold on to someone he or she loves. Exquisite, disturbing and incredibly heartrending, Ruth’s story will make you want to hold everyone close, while you still can.

Patrick Rothfuss’ ‘The Name of the Wind’ a magical adventure

“It was as deep and wide as autumn’s ending. It was heavy as a great river-smooth stone. It was the patient, cut-flower sound of a man who is waiting to die.”

Before you devour “The Name of the Wind,” the first book of the KingKiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss, make sure you are truly ready. A large, steaming beverage, maybe a crackling fireplace, a blanket or two and a comfortable place to curl up for hours of uninterrupted reading – you’ll need it all because you’ll be there until the last page.

The Waystone Inn is a quiet establishment in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere. A few people gather to tell stories or have a cup, but nothing really ever happens. The innkeeper Kote polishes his bar, sweeps out the dust and welcomes his few customers when he is lucky enough to have them.

Then one day, a chronicler stumbles into town and into a story – a story about the most legendary wizard who ever lived.

It is a story of demons and magic and love. It is also a story about many types of courage, even the courage to hide yourself in a little town.

Kote, who is in truth Kvothe, is known as the man who was whipped but didn’t bleed, who was admitted to Arcanum after only two days, a hero who saved the life of many and who possibly performed some of the greatest magic ever known. He exists in a million rumors, legends, myths and songs, but no one knows him in truth.

Kvothe, a man who is hiding himself and slowly fading away into the innkeeper Kote he pretends to be.

With a little encouragement, Kvothe agrees to tell the chronicler the real story of his life in three days. The first day is entitled “The Name of the Wind.”

In this first day, we learn everything from Kvothe’s childhood love of music and performance to his discovery of magic, years begging on the streets and entrance into the university.

We experience Kvothe’s first love and watch as he makes great friends and terrible enemies. Tragedies, losses and betrayals abound.

We are left with the feeling of wanting more because when Kvothe’s first day has ended, his story has only just begun.

(Originally written for Get Out

Death of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell

“Today is Christmas Eve. Today is my birthday. Today, I am 15. Today, I buried my parents in the backyard. Neither of them were beloved.”

So opens “The Death of Bees,” in the voice of Marnie, one of two quirky young girls freshly orphaned from alcoholic, drug-addicted parents who neglected and abused them.

Their father, Gene, is found dead in bed. Their mother, Izzy, hangs herself the day after.

Gene lays rotting for a while before the girls drag his swollen decaying body out to be buried under some lavender. The girls hide Izzy under the shed before burying her eventually as well. After all, these things take time.

With parents’ bodies mostly hidden, Marnie and Nelly are trying to keep everyone none the wiser. It is only one year until Marnie becomes of age and can take care of Nelly alone. They try to stay together and independent. They try to keep the neighbor’s dog from uncovering the body parts. The world has other plans.

Their neighbor, Lennie, notices that the girls’ parents are missing and takes them under his wing. He offers them food, a place to sleep and helps them with their homework. He gives them companionship, guidance and affection. Lennie is gay, his lover is dead, and he went looking for love in the wrong place. As a result, he is a man broken under societal scrutiny and hate. He is incredibly lonely.

The girls’ grandfather, Robert T. Macdonald, abandoned Izzy when she got pregnant. He turns up suddenly wanting to find Izzy and desperately tries to lure the girls from Lennie.

Fighting against those trying to help and hinder them, are two girls with very distinct personalities. Marnie, tough as nails, is already hardened by cruel experience. She sells drugs and has adulterous sex with Gene’s ex-dealer. Nelly reacts to everything from her own unique perspective. Her speech is filled with turns of phrase such as “good ruddy riddance” and “loathsome malignant fellow.” People often don’t know how to react to her and she to them.

As the girls try to stay one step ahead of their grandfather, their friends, their school and various authorities; lies begin to unravel secret by secret.

Told in the voices of Marnie, Nelly and Lennie, “The Death of Bees” is a darkly humorous novel about three people trying to keep out the world while finding a way to take care of each other.

(Originally written for my book column in The Victoria Advocate )