The Demon’s Wife: A Novel of the Supernatural and Attempted Redemption
JournalStone, September, 2013
Reviewed by Michael R. Collings
In many ways, Rick Hautala’s posthumous novel, scheduled for release in several months, is a fairly traditional contemporary love story. A woman meets a devastatingly attractive man in a bar, where they share a few moments. Later, as she leaves the bar, the man rescues her from a potentially lethal situation, suggesting that he has an equal interest in her. As the story progresses, they date, learn more about each other, fall in love, decide to live together, get engaged, meet her parents, set a date, get married…and so forth.
Of course, with the title The Demon’s Wife, and a page count exceeding 300, there is no secret that the seemingly-normal love story will not progress quite as smoothly as one might hope.
There is, for example, the small detail that the man, known through most of the novel only as Samael, is in reality a demon in human form, with all of the physical and emotional ‘baggage’ that millennia of devotion, not simply to evil but to ‘Evil’, must include. He has no soul. He keeps being tempted to fall into his old ways—such as finagling to capture other characters’ souls—in spite of his at-the-time-sincere promises not to. He isn’t precisely trustworthy, particularly at the beginning, because, of course, demons lie for a living. He is spectacularly handsome, though, even if—as Claire McMullen discovers to her extreme embarrassment and perturbation—he lacks any genitalia at all; the moment of revelation takes on a distinctly humorous edge, however, when Hautala gives a unique and unexpected turn to the old phrase (if you will pardon the vulgarity) “a piece of tail” (Hautala, I should also point out, does not use the phrase but it is implied throughout).
Indeed, that bit of anatomical anomaly is a key to the way Hautala treats his narrative. By taking absolutely seriously the idea that a demon might fall in love with a mortal woman, and vice versa, he allows for any number of horrific episodes, particularly when a group of the groom’s friends decide that they don’t want Samael to marry Claire or to attempt regaining his soul. As might be expected, their actions are vicious, insidious in the extreme, and highly effective.
At the same time, however, Hautala uses that same absolute seriousness as a pathway into humor. Imagine a demon’s response when his girlfriend inadvertently uses any number of common expletives referring with Heaven and its inhabitants. Or a demon and a human woman on a luncheon date. Or entering a jewelry store to buy an engagement ring. Time and again, Hautala uses his story-line to create obvious justapositions of right and wrong; morality and, not immorality perhaps, but certainly amorality; security and anxiety; mortality and immortality.
The result is a delightful, fearful, comedic, horrific, serious, satirical look at relationships, at the conventions of religion (although no specific religion is even mentioned), at humanity’s need for love regardless of its source, and, ultimately, of the possibilities and potentials of redemption.
I read the ARC of The Demon’s Wife in a little less than two days, which for me suggests that it was highly entertaining, highly effective, and deeply satisfying. It is certainly Rick Hautala doing what he does best—creating a fascinating characters within an equally fascinating narrative.