The Creature’s Curse
Paul Braus

River East Press
Trade Paper, 212 pages, $9.99
Review by Sheila M. Merritt

“Never judge a book by its cover.” The Creature’s Curse has a lurid cover: An outstretched hand with long fingernails reaching toward the viewer; a menacing looking house looms in the background. Does the novel indeed reflect what the illustration overtly conveys? Some of the time, yes. The narrative is laden with scenes of in-the-face-violence, but includes sequences of subdued psychological insight. There’s a Jekyll and Hyde dynamic in author Paul Braus’s prose. In this tale of witchcraft’s power and ensuing corruption, the writer mostly succeeds in having it both ways.

Love turns sour for Abigail Merriweather and Eldon Bailey. She exhibits odd behavior during sexual intimacy, but he thinks that a psychiatrist and medication will cure Abby’s aberration. Unfortunately, in addition to obviously being somewhat delusional himself, the guy has latent anger management issues. Still, they marry and have a male child. Over the fourteen years of the kid’s life, the marital strife intensifies. Verbal abuse becomes physical, and Eldon plays around. Abby, a descendent of Salem witches, eventually feels empowered by the perks of her legacy. Using an ancestral amulet, she makes her husband impotent (no more cheating) and turns him into a zombie-ish slave.

Not content with manipulating her man, Abby also goes after her boy; he services as well as serves. Before you can say: “Holy Oedipus,” the son decides to rebel. What’s a mother to do? What’s a witch to do? Since she’s already emotionally emasculated the husband, it is fitting that she wants to physically alter the son’s maleness. There is humor and horror in the line: “I’ll make a woman of you yet, boy!”

Amidst much gore and bloodletting, are some precise and insightful passages. An example is this discerning description of a former amour of Abigail’s: “After a month together, she recognized his amazing shallowness, and that more than anything his love was reserved for his own image in the mirror. He was like a beautifully wrapped gift box – thick, colorful paper and lovely tied bow – that was mistakenly left empty at the department store.”

The Creature’s Curse is the first novel by Paul Braus, and he has set up the premise for a second. It will be interesting to find out if the follow-up book reads smoother in its transitions from monstrous ultra violence to quiet observations of human frailties.

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