We Can Never Leave This Place

JournalStone. Jun. 2022. 104p. ISBN 9781685100230. pap. $12.95. HORROR
On the first page of LaRocca’s (Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke) macabre and exquisite fever dream, readers are introduced to Mara, who ominously notes, “From baby teeth to virginity, to live is to regularly suffer loss.” Readers are then whisked back to Mara’s childhood, to the pivotal day her father’s body was returned to their dilapidated apartment in a war-torn neighborhood, where a sewage pipe endlessly drips. In her intense grief, Mara’s pregnant mother starts hosting an ever-growing cast of hideous but beguiling creatures, most notably a spider and a snake, who take up residence, promising to take away the family’s pain while simultaneously taking control of their home and minds. Schedule two uninterrupted hours to experience this visceral, lyrical, and beguiling dark fantasy. LaRocca takes readers on a weird, intense, and upsetting journey, an exploration of extreme trauma and grief, but one that is also so compelling, affecting, and original that they will eagerly follow to its breathtaking conclusion.
VERDICT The hype surrounding LaRocca is real. He is quickly emerging as one of the best authors at articulating the emotions of horror: feelings of disgust, unease, but also wonder that physically pulsate through readers’ bodies as they interact with his creations. Similar to the storytelling style and reading experience of the extraordinary work of Helen Oyeyemi and Samanta Schweblin or Naben Ruthnum’s Helpmeet.
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