Lovecraft Country is an interesting mix of genres that has been adapted for television by Jordan Peele. While I struggled to decide on my thoughts about the book, it definitely packs a punch.
*This is a Spoiler-Free Review!*
“But stories are like people, Atticus. Loving them doesn’t make them perfect. You try to cherish their virtues and overlook their flaws. The flaws are still there, though. But you don’t get mad.” –Matt Ruff, Lovecraft Country
The critically acclaimed cult novelist makes visceral the terrors of life in Jim Crow America and its lingering effects in this brilliant and wondrous work of the imagination that melds historical fiction, pulp noir, and Lovecraftian horror and fantasy
Chicago, 1954. When his father Montrose goes missing, twenty-two year old Army veteran Atticus Turner embarks on a road trip to New England to find him, accompanied by his Uncle George—publisher of The Safe Negro Travel Guide—and his childhood friend Letitia. On their journey to the manor of Mr. Braithwhite—heir to the estate that owned Atticus’s great grandmother—they encounter both mundane terrors of white America and malevolent spirits that seem straight out of the weird tales George devours.
At the manor, Atticus discovers his father in chains, held prisoner by a secret cabal named the Order of the Ancient Dawn—led by Samuel Braithwhite and his son Caleb—which has gathered to orchestrate a ritual that shockingly centers on Atticus. And his one hope of salvation may be the seed of his—and the whole Turner clan’s—destruction.
A chimerical blend of magic, power, hope, and freedom that stretches across time, touching diverse members of one black family, Lovecraft Country is a devastating kaleidoscopic portrait of racism—the terrifying specter that continues to haunt us today. -Goodreads
There are a few things that should be noted about this book. First of all, it is not written by an #OwnVoices author, but by a white author writing from the perspective of an African American family. I can’t speak to the authentic nature of Ruff’s narrative, but I will say that it does succeed in creating a sense of anxiety and fear in the reader as the characters travel through Jim Crow America.
The book reads as a series of short stories from the perspectives of various members of a family, which eventually all interconnect. Overall I enjoyed the wild, surreal story-lines and “monster-of-the week” style.
The book quickly drew me in, but as it went on I found myself more and more disillusioned with how some of the characters were dealing with the supernatural. While the characters themselves were distinct and interesting, I had to suspend my disbelief with their subdued reactions to the supernatural.
What I Liked
The Lovecraft influence: I enjoy the atmosphere of Lovecraft’s stories, but it is well known that he was a blatant racist and white supremacist…and it shows when reading his stories. I liked Lovecraft Country‘s discussion of racism in science fiction and in Lovecraft’s stories and how it attempts to subvert this racism.
The atmosphere: The mix of supernatural horror and magical realism creates a truly stifling sense of an inability to escape. The characters are so used to the constant threat against their lives by racist people that the monsters before them aren’t as frightening. Obviously, I didn’t like the racist situations, but I appreciate how they are dealt with and the true sense of horror that is created when we witness the racist, inhumane behavior that the characters have to deal with.
What I Didn’t Like
How the characters react to the supernatural: Like I wrote earlier, I understand that the point of the book is that racist individuals are the real monsters here, but the characters reactions to ghosts and monsters was so subdued that it was a little too unbelievable.
How simple the solutions were: No spoiler alerts here, but the conclusions of the stories and the book were just too easy in my opinion. The end was satisfying but not as hard-earned as you would think after all of the buildup.
If you like weird books or sci-fi, then I think Lovecraft Country might be for you. It’s mix of horror, magic, and a critical discussion of racism is interesting and worth your time. While the story itself lacked some nuance, I did enjoy reading it. I’m super excited to see the book adapted to television by Jordan Peele. The format and style of the book matches the vibes of his films like Us and Get Out. I think it will translate super well!
My Rating: ★★★1/2