A friend has been telling me for years how great this book is, but I didn't know anything about it, other than it contained two novella length stories. A word about the writing-it was beautiful at times. Often, it was beautiful and horrific all at once, which must be a hard thing to pull off, because even reading as much as I do, I rarely come across that perfect, vivid style. And winter had come again." This book was like autumn, actually, (at least it is the way Ms. Engstrom described it), beautiful and swift.
But finding the real deal brings its own flavor of depression because it raises questions like, Why isnt this author better known?
I found this book (consists of two novellas: When Darkness Loves Us and Beauty Is) on Amazon when I was looking for some Theodore Sturgeon books. When Darkness Loves Us It's the sixties and Sally Ann is enjoying resting in the sun while her new husband rides a tractor on the family farm. The character development in When Darkness Loves Us is excellent and the menace mixed in with the sweetness of this story makes it hard not to read straight through in one sitting. I will definitely seek out this writer's other works and look forward to reading the second novella in this book. Beauty Is is the second novella in the book, and it is more beautifully written than the first story, if that's possible.
Moreover, there was an ironic introduction at the beginning of the book written by the author, it talked about how she knew from the age of 8 that shed be a published author one day, and then it continued on to note that this first novel of hers was worked over significantly in workshop, and all the other students on the read aloud had concluded that it was brilliant.
The title story is about a young mother-to-be who is accidentally trapped in an series of underground tunnels and ends up giving birth and living underground for many years. There some exploration of the mother and son bond and later in the story some very interesting family dynamics are brought to the fore when contact is made with those living above ground. The very first line of the story is sad enough, losing both your parents close together but for Martha this is especially horrific. You see, Martha is mentally handicapped and has lived with her parents all her life. Prior to her death, her mother sets up agreements with the townsfolk to help Martha with monetary issues, taking care of the property and basic needs of living. Greasy oil that coated her whole perception of things, but once in a while, her subconscious would break through the surface, take a roaring gasp of fresh air, and look around while those filmy sheets of grease ran down her eyes.
When Darkness Loves Us consists of two novellas by Elizabeth Engstrom, the first being the same title as the book itself and the other called Beauty Is, which is actually the longer of the two stories. The first novella, When Darkness Loves Us, tells the story of farm girl Sally Ann Hixson, who is recently married. Beauty Is tells the story of Martha Mannes, and how she is coping with her life since the death of both of her parents.
I wasn't aware this was a collection of two novellas when I started reading it. When Darkness Loves Us (the book) is a good addition to the Paperbacks from Hell line, and is more like what I was expecting from the imprint once Valancourt started it.
One husband, two children and five years later, she sold the agency to her partner and had enough seed money to try her hand at full time fiction writing, her lifelong dream.