Not often do I finish a horror story and think immediately that it was quite lovely. Yet, that was my initial reaction to Out Behind the Barn, a slim novella from Chad Lutzke and John Boden.
That's not a whole lot else, frankly, that I can say without spoiling Out Behind the Barn. It's a slowly paced family drama, and the authors are absolutely methodical and deliberate in their parceling out of information. They drop hints to the nature of their characters with sly winks and nods, rather than through a pounding impossible-to-miss delivery. It's no mistake that the boys, Ronny and Davey, read a lot of Edgar Allan Poe and Ray Bradbury during their homeschooling sessions, and Lutzke and Boden use their characters' love for these authors to prime the pump of readers expectations.
Such is the manner in which seeds are laid, and when it comes time to reap their fields in the story's climax, Lutzke and Boden do so with the same reverential quietude that came before. I've not read Boden's work before, and Lutzke is an author I've only recently discovered. Of the former I can definitely say I'll be reading more of his material. Of the latter, I feel I can positively say that Lutzke is a writer who prizes emotional gravitas. He seeks out the hearts of his characters and plumbs their depths with familiar intimacy to the point that he stops writing characters and begins writing actual, full-fledged people.
Maggie and her boys are no exception. Each feels supremely realistic, and like most people, they have their secrets. What's most striking about Out Behind the Barn, though, is its eloquent sadness. There's a darkness here, an irreparable degree of psychological damage borne of deep sorrow, but also an atmosphere of love and hope. It is, after all, a story about family, of the rights and wrongs committed upon one another, as well as the damage. Oh, most certainly the damage.
[Note: I received an advanced copy of this title from the authors.]
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