Book Review : PALIMPSEST BY CAITLIN MARCEAU

Review by Renata Pavrey

I was introduced to Caitlin Marceau’s writing through her short story, Gastric, from Blood & Bone – a body horror anthology, where she addressed fatphobia. In limited words, Caitlin created an impact with her take on body shaming and the horrors of superficiality. When I heard the same publisher, Ghost Orchid Press had signed Caitlin on for a collection of contemporary horror, Palimpsest was immediately put on my to-read list.

With a mixture of prose and poetry, Caitlin takes the reader across the Canadian wilderness, canals and bridges, frozen landscapes, and frosty tales that chill to the bone. The stories range from diseases of the mind and body, encounters with demons and ghosts, bullying and domestic violence, werewolves and shapeshifters, ice hockey and distance running. Caitlin’s prowess as a writer illuminates every page of Palimpsest, with every story different and outstanding in its own way. You know her settings are local, but her stories have universal appeal.

My favorite from the lot was Stuck – the perspective and narrative were just brilliant. There’s absolutely nothing happening and everything happening. It reminded me of Shirley Jackson’s covert style of horror, where the real terrors are what happens between the lines. Jackson’s wry sense of humor also finds its way into some of the stories. A few of my other favorites were Infected (about ill people in denial of their illness, only to go around spreading diseases in their stubbornness), Conqueror (an ode to video games and online players, and the person behind the avatar), The Midas (the supernatural world is no match for the real world, as a deep-sea diver faces off nature’s watery inhabitants), Hunger (very real horrors of cabin fever, frostbite, and hypothermia).

The stories and poetry have all been featured in other anthologies, magazines, and performed live over the years. Besides Gastric, I had only read one other piece from Caitlin – the poem Metamorphosis from the horror poetry anthology, Under Her Skin. So, I was thrilled that she put together this collection of some of her finest writing. I usually space out anthologies and collections – reading a story or two between other novels. Palimpsest is one of those books that keep the reader hooked throughout. You want to spend more time in Caitlin’s world, with its horrors and everything she offers the reader. Every single story warrants its own review. They’re all so good! And the cover is stunning, too.

My rating – 5/5

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