American Cannibal - edited by Rebecca Rowland
I felt fantastically lucky that I received an ARC of this book through Candace Nola and Rebecca Rowland, having been stunned at the cover reveal earlier that month.
Before I go any further into the breakdown of the book, I have to praise that cover, there’s something magical about it – it really sets the mood for the entire anthology, the color scheme, the woman - the background bleeding away - just superb - and the editing here is wonderful. Not so much as a comma out of place (and followers of my blog will know I’m an editing nerd), Rowland’s work here is immaculate.
To the stories. You have to assume that a reader going into an anthology named American Cannibal, is going to assume each story is going to be about or revolve around a cannibalistic environment. Taking that into consideration, there were a few stories in here that went with the reveal of cannibalistic events as their punchline - which, giving credit to their authors, would have worked with more impact in a normal anthology, but here, we were waiting for the cannibal thing to happen – so the reveal punched, but with less force than normal. Having said that, every single story here approached the overlying theme from a different angle. Some were bizarre, some funny, some slasher-esque. There aren't two shorts alike, and every voice stands out as individual, confident, and competent. The quality of the writing is great, overall.
It’s a solid anthology.
There are stand-outs – there have to be, and this time (for me) the honors go to Gwendolyn Kiste with her fantastic short The hungry wives of Bleak Street which really approached the whole concept of cannibalism from such a delicious angle, it raised the bar. A killer first line lets you know, right from the get-go, that you are in the hands of a master. Superb, Gwendolyn, you just rocketed your latest book (and Stoker nomination) way up my TBR list to the very top. If I had to choose a favorite in the anthology, this would be it. Can't wait to discover more from you.
Ronald Malfi provides again, by almost avoiding the whole theme of cannibalism. There are hints, subtle clues, and indirect action (can biting be included as cannibalism?) – In any event, cannibalism is the background hum to Ronald’s main story, a retelling of the Challenger disaster from the perspective of a teacher who didn’t make the cut for the position on the doomed spaceship. The emotional impact on the character contrasted to their ongoing responsibility to a child under her care – that near-death -could-have-been-me experience whilst struggling to provide the appropriate care for a challenged child under her wing – let’s say that this "snippet" once again makes you want to bathe in a whole book. It always feels like you are being robbed of the whole story, we are left wanting more than we have been graced with. Go at throttle up is as perfect a snapshot as you can get.
Wendigo dreams from Owl Goingback is evocative, I loved the setting and Owl’s descriptive style. The lost diary by Candace Nola defines the book’s tone and includes nice epistolary moments, and Carnivore by Jeremy Megargee presents a bleak undertone.
I think this is a 4 ⭐ ‘s read, a wonderful introduction to some authors I hadn’t read before, and the editing is, frankly, exceptional.
You can buy American Cannibal, by clicking on the appropriate Amazon link, below:
You can check out Rebecca's website, HERE.
You can follow Rebecca on Instagram, HERE.