By S. P. Miskowski
Omnium Gatherum Media
March, 2012; $12.53 PB
Reviewed by R. J. Joseph
S. P. Miskowski is a multi-published speculative fiction writer who has received two Swarthout awards and two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships throughout her career, among other honors. The novel, Knock Knock, made the short list for the Shirley Jackson Award in 2011. Knock Knock is one story related to three other novellas. The first of these, Delphine Dodd, is also slated to be published by Omnium Gatherum Media.
Knock Knock is the haunting story of three childhood friends who grow up and live in the small logging town of Skillute, WA. As they watch the events in the town around them, they set out to make an adolescent promise to never become pregnant. Their fervent oath stirs the evil spirit of an angry girl who died in childbirth as a teenager, and who desperately wants to come back to life. Each of the three girls breaks the oath and bears children, with long reaching, terrifying repercussions.
This is an eloquent social commentary on the true evils of a dying town, even in the absence of an evil spirit doing everything in its power to come back to the earthly realm through the progeny of ignorant young girls. There is a supernatural element to the horrors Ethel, Marietta, and Beverly endure as they attempt to grow up and live in a place that offers no sustenance for such progress, only the heartache and pain of childbirth and the immobilization of the female psyche in the prescribed gender roles given them.
Knock Knock begs the question: is the evil spirit of Flora Dempsey the epitome of the cyclical death the town of Skillute experiences as it gets closer to the final death? Miskowski leaves this up to the reader to decide. Riveting and discomfiting, this thinking readers’ novel is a must read.