Blackwater: The Complete Caskey Family Saga by Michael McDowell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Epic Southern Family Sagas generally automatically qualify as a Horror genre. IMHO. Deeply creepy, sometimes charming, often batshit crazy, and interspersed with WTF. That's just my normal reaction, however.
Blackwater, on the other hand, raises the water to a new level.
I'm not saying this is all that scary, despite King and Straub lauding this serial novel (combined here as one long novel). But all the elements are here. We're meant to love or really, really hate the characters for their actions and grievances. When the violence comes, it is swift and merciless and sometimes quite creepy. The real charm is in how well written it is.
I was reminded -- quite fondly -- of The House of the Spirits, only rely on a somewhat horrific supernatural element instead. I'm thinking maybe a marid. :) Definitely a powerful water-based beasty. But here's the kicker... the supernatural is never the focus, merely a spice. The family is the meat. Sometimes literally.
I had a really great time with this, and I can't always say that about epic family dramas. Sometimes I get annoyed with them and just want the whole thing to just wrap up, but that was never the case with this one. McDowell never kept us in suspense about the big stuff. We knew how this would end and he delivered in style. It started with a flood and ended in one. :)
So what makes this really stand out from all the other epic family dramas? Southern included?
The children. The children are always the key. I think I may have been more horrified by how they treat the children than any other reason. Not that they were abused... particularly... but how they were all bargaining chips, even a barter system. And here's the weird bit: no matter how horrible the first event was, it actually made a lot of sense in the later incarnations. People are people. Some people don't want the 'extras' but there were lots in the family who wanted a baby. Sometimes this works out well, sometimes it's just horrific. But when I started sympathizing with and appreciating the concept, that's where I really started getting creeped out. It actually started to make a lot of wicked sense. *shiver*
I totally recommend this for all you family saga fans. :)
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