Have you ever read a book that scared you? As a horror writer, book reviewer and editor, I have read thousands of books. None have affected me as much as The Exorcist, and now, 100 Unfortunate Days.
Penelope Crowe has written an innocuous tale … at first glance. A thought provoking story about a woman trapped in her own mind and who writes out her thought process day by day then takes us with her on this journey of a lost soul. She writes about life. Having babies and how depressing that is; how you feel you have wasted your life; how the world can be a crappy place at times. As a reader, you get the feeling the protagonist is depressed, maybe dealing with a more serious mental illness and you blow it off. But then you read an entry that hits too close to home. And you get a little uncomfortable. Because the author just wrote about something you thought at one point. It’s a little unnerving, but then the madness creeps in and we are okay. Because we are not mad. We are normal, everyday people caught up in our everyday lives. We do not have worms in our brains or think about robots living in our skin so we are fine.
Then a few entries later, the normal entries appear again. Like Day 29: “Here are some things I would do if I could go back to being 20 years old right now: join an art commune, write a book, kiss more men, kiss more women.”
I guess that’s why this book is so terrifying. It is raw with emotion and detail and normality. Things that everyone thinks about. Or did. And then on Day 38 she writes about possession and exorcism, Day 55, Kuru, Day 61, the end of the world. Interspersed is a rant about Oprah, which I thoroughly and secretly loved, the intricacies of romance and relationships, porn, philosophy and other interesting subjects.
This book was not horrifying and fraught with zombies and gore, but the horror here is of the more subtle kind. It is sneaky. You think you have finished reading a quaint novel and you put it out of your mind. Then you wake up in the middle of the night and glance at the clock, realizing it is 3 AM … and is that something moving in the corner of the ceiling?