The Doloriad

MCD. Mar. 2022. 240p. ISBN 9780374605087. pap. $17. HORROR
DEBUT A climate disaster has wiped out civilization and poisoned the land. The Matriarch and her brother then tried to restart humanity on the edge of a ruined city, but now, two generations into an incestuously created family, things are looking worse, not better. Hoping to connect with other survivors, the Matriarch sends away her unspeaking legless daughter Dolores as a marriage offering. However, after Dolores rolls herself back home, all semblance of order begins to unravel, except for the constant in their lives—an old TV show, Get Aquinas in Here, in which the medieval saint faces ethical dilemmas. Williams’s disquieting survival novel is meant to evoke a visceral, uncomfortable reaction in readers, enhanced by the eerily detached omniscient narration that reveals intimate and depraved details, and an uneasy layout of long, unbroken paragraphs. Nods to human storytelling traditions—from the Old Testament to Greek epics to Shakespeare—anchor this shocking tale set in a terrifyingly possible near future.
VERDICT While not for everyone, this odd, deeply unsettling story will have readers vacillating between overwhelming disgust and an inability to stop thinking about what it all means. Fans of critically acclaimed macabre tales (like Rachel Eve Moulton’s Tinfoil Butterfly and Maryse Meijer’s The Seventh Mansion) will find a kindred spirit here.
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