Foreword Reviews

Tear

Erica McKeen’s Tear is a hair-raising horror novel in which patriarchal dismissals of capable women fester across generations.

During the long winter of her senior year of college, in the lone basement room of a nondescript rental house, Frances starts hearing noises in her walls. She thinks that she sees the shadows move. And the night refuses to end.

As she loses her grip on what’s real, Frances’s mind drifts toward memories: of her absent father; of her grandmother, who declared her “different” to halt processions of ghost stories on the porch; of a cruel childhood friend who insisted that he imagined her into existence; and of her mother, who abandoned her dreams to have Frances, and who may have tried to trick her into drowning once.

In all, Frances recalls twenty-one years of slights and barbs—instances of being discounted and looked over; of being misunderstood and underloved. She wonders if she is invisible, or even real. Though Frances’s roommates haven’t checked on her in weeks, it’s not the first time she’s been forgotten; her more immediate concern is with the existential dangers that she faces in the dark.

This haunting, disorienting tale traces Frances’s descent into madness with empathetic precision. She gulps vinegar and scratches at her scalp. She mixes her hours with days, then months—or maybe the reverse. She cannot discern the dimensions of what’s before her. And no one seems to hear her cries for help—cries that she isn’t even certain left her ragged throat. She fades; she transforms. Opportunities for reprisal arise, but even they are bleak, tormented, and otherworldly.

There’s heartbreak in the girlhood silences of Tear, a hallucinatory psychological horror novel in which you only have to watch out for the quiet ones because no one watched out for them.

Reviewed by Michelle Anne Schingler

Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The publisher of this book provided free copies of the book to have their book reviewed by a professional reviewer. No fee was paid by the publisher for this review. Foreword Reviews only recommends books that we love. Foreword Magazine, Inc. is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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