Guest Blog : The Box Jumper Review
by Theresa Braun
Plot: This story takes place in the mind and memory of Leona, Harry Houdini’s onstage assistant, or box jumper. The protagonist’s dreams and memories also jump through the span of the magician’s career in America during the early 20th Century. It is worth mentioning that Mannetti’s thorough research of Houdini and his world is beautifully evident in the narrative.
Hypnotizing images and emotions are expressed by Leona as she recounts her bittersweet connection with Houdini that transcends the conventional relationship. As the novella progresses, I became immersed in the passion that plummets into a haunting possession, and even heart-breaking madness. Without realizing it, I found myself unable to put the story down because I was so emotionally invested in Leona’s journey.
Houdini passionately wants to debunk spiritualists swiftly acquiring notoriety for their outrageous séances. He uncovers all sorts of hidden secrets behind their chicanery, all with Leona’s help. Together, they navigate social scandal to uncover the charlatans in their midst. We are left wondering if he will escape from his enemies as easily as escaping from one of his illusionist stunts. In addition, Leona begins to wonder if there are dark supernatural forces at work, leading to the tale’s shocking conclusion. It was one of the best endings I’ve experienced in a long while.
My Favorite Character: Although my first reaction would be to reiterate Leona’s likeability as a character, I have to say that Mannetti’s love for Harry Houdini and the compassion for him as a person is wonderfully portrayed through the eyes of Leona. We really get a sense of how complex he was as a person.
Favorite Scene: By far my favorite was the final one. It kind of snuck up on me. I felt like I was following Leona off a cliff. Before I knew it, I was dangling in mid-air, about to drop to my death. And then she was gone. I can’t say anything else without giving it away, but the conclusion delivered.
Best line: “The shadow shot filthy black tendrils that swept the very air aside, sinking downward like corpses hurled into the sea—and, stunned, with my mouth gaping, I felt the stinging vine-shape hurtling down my throat and anchoring deep inside me.”
What did you like best as a reader: Mannetti’s writing is mesmerizing. Her sentences are powerful and gripping. Part of what kept me flipping the page were her descriptions and words choice. She is a must read for that very reason.
What did you like least as a reader: The novella’s narrative construction is not for everyone. It’s told in a stream of consciousness, which always left me asking if it was the past, present, or future. Then, I began to wonder what was real, a dream, or if the memories Leona shared were mere fabrications. That is precisely the author’s intent, since Leona is an unreliable narrator. I will tell you that if you stick with the story and just keep reading, things fall into place. The pieces will make sense. Just be warned that you will be giving your brain a workout.
Rating : 4 out of 5 here. There is definitely a dark tone throughout much of the story, woven into this historical fiction. For me, it’s the descent into madness and the flirtation with the spiritual realm earn this “scare score.” Although the extreme terror doesn’t hit until the final portion of the story, I feel the build-up is definitely worth the wait. It’s a satisfying read that will leave you deliciously disturbed.
Theresa Braun was born in St. Paul, Minnesota and has carried some of that hardiness with her to South Florida where she currently resides. She enjoys delving into creative writing, painting, photography and even bouts of ghost hunting. Perhaps growing up in a haunted house in Winona, Minnesota is to blame. Traveling as often as possible is one of her passions—in fact, her latest adventure took her to Romania for a horror writers’ workshop where she followed in the steps of Vlad the Impaler. She writes horror fiction and her latest short story “Shout at the Devil” appears in Under the Bed Magazine.
Contact info: Twitter: @tbraun_author Facebook