It normally takes a lot of me to be disgusted, but Sara Tantlinger’s TO BE DEVOURED may be the grossest book I have read all year, yet she makes it beautiful. After being familiar with her poetry for several years, and fresh off her Stoker award winning poetry collection, THE DEVIL’S DREAMLAND, Tantlinger’s first novella is a satisfyingly gruesome, psychological horror.
Disclaimer: This goes almost without saying that this story contains visceral gore/body mutilation/body horror, so stay away if that’s not your thing.
Andi has a kettle of vultures circling her home. She can’t help, but be fascinated by the birds and this leads to her to become first fascinated and then obsessed by what the vultures may know. Even going to her therapist, Andi cannot unpack her unconscious secrets and bouts of raging blackouts. When Luna, her girlfriend tries to step in and help her, Andi soon finds herself hungry for dead flesh herself. Can she come back from the flock, or will she descend with fury?
There’s something startlingly unassuming about the first page of this brief novella, yet Tantlinger wastes little time to dive deeply into the creepiness that resides in Andi. And it has to be commended how quickly this happens, which should tell any reader that they are in the hands of a masterful storyteller. The prose retains Tantlinger’s signature poetics. While, startling images that will grab you by your throat and shake you. The spiral that slowly develops as each page turns only increases the intimacy the reader has with Andi and the deep mental scars she carries.
Andi and Luna are a lovely, cute couple and their characterization walks the line of being picturesque and darkly twisted. It seems fitting that Tantlinger holds this tension between them for so long through this novella and brings it all to a rather cathartic and satisfying conclusion. The overlay of images and thematic elements on love, tragedy, and loss all compound with each chapter until a rather unbelievable twist occurs and the veil drops and the reader can see what was happening the entire time. It. is. one. wild. ride.
Don’t miss out on this one, but keep in mind you might want to read this one on an empty stomach.