Reviews

Haunts

Peggy Thompson

How are we haunted by the past? And how do we break free? These are the questions posed by Amber Dawn in her marvellous ghost story Sodom Road Exit (Arsenal Pulp Press). Set in Ontario’s lakeside Crystal Beach in 199, the novel follows twenty-year-old Starla Mia Martin as she returns home after a disastrous stint at university in Toronto. She moves back in with her mother and takes up with Tamara, a young woman she went to high school with. Starla is haunted by her past, as is Tamara. And so is Crystal Beach, literally. It was once home to a famous amusement park and the “most dangerous roller coaster in the world.” The amusement park has been razed, but bits of signage have become collectibles and Starla unwittingly hangs a sign for the “Laugh in the Dark Ride” over her bed. The sign is possessed by Etta, a queer, young grifter who met her death at the fairground fifty years earlier. And Etta moves quickly from possession of the old piece of wood to possession of Starla. Once possessed, Starla gains powers from Etta; the haunting is visceral and releases psychic energy. People come from miles away to hear Starla speak and tell them their past and their future. But Etta is feeding off Starla, turning her into a wraith, killing her. This all happens at a trailer park where Starla gets a job as the night manager. As Etta consumes Starla, it’s up to Tamara and the community of outcasts who live in the trailer park to find a way to exorcise Etta and the past.

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