Title: To Be Devoured
Author: Sara Tantlinger
Page Count: 130 pages
Rating: 5 / 5 ✨✨✨✨✨
What does carrion taste like? Andi has to know. The vultures circling outside her home taunt and invite her to come understand the secrets hiding in their banquet of decay. Fascination morphs into an obsessive need to know what the vultures know. Andi turns to Dr. Fawning, but even the therapist cannot help her comprehend the secrets she’s buried beneath anger-induced blackouts.
Her girlfriend, Luna, tries to help Andi battle her inner darkness and infatuation with the vultures. However, the desire to taste dead flesh, to stitch together wings of her own and become one with the flock sends Andi down a twisted, unforgivable path. Once she understands the secrets the vultures conceal, she must decide between abandoning the birds of prey or risk turning her loved ones into nothing more than meals to be devoured.
“Our deaths deserve no other meaning than to be devoured.”
Writing like this is why I fucking love horror, and I honestly can’t pay higher compliments to a writer than the ones I’d give to Sara Tantlinger. I’ve read her poetry before, and it blew me away with how hauntingly melodic it was, in the most beautifully visceral way. I would use that exact same term – beautifully visceral – of her novella writing as well.
She has such a gift for taking horrible, ugly, heartbreaking things and making you ache for them, and with them. Her descriptions are full of color and texture, making things feel tangible in a way that other writers just aren’t able to do.
I mean, in her very first paragraph of this novella, she describes the early morning sky as, “morphing periwinkle clouds into buttery tones of the rising sun”. Her writing is just so pretty, and the fact that she’s able to write both gorgeous descriptions like this, as well as stomach-turningly horrible stuff like what comes in the later pages is mindblowing and totally worth my fangirling and awe.
This novella is not only one of my favorites of 2019, but of everything I’ve read in horror fiction as well. While I wouldn’t be able to recommend it for everyone due to how extreme and graphic some of the more disturbing parts are (some people just don’t do well with those sorts of things), if you don’t have a weak tummy and are not faint of heart, I’d definitely urge you to seek it out.
I love the unreliable narration that comes with a character struggling with their mental health, and this novella is no exception. Andi’s character is flawed, and tragic – a horrific past trauma haunts her, and the feelings she expresses early on in the story about her rage and pain are completely relatable. There’s a particular scene where she describes her feelings of rejection after a gift she tries giving her girlfriend, Luna, goes awry, and my stomach actually physically hurt because I felt so bad for her, and for how humiliated and hurt she must feel.
Despite how relatable she is at times, Andi takes a turn and quickly becomes quite unrelatable as she slips down a steep slope into the darkest parts of her innermost thoughts. She becomes strangely obsessed with vultures, and with the dead – particularly, with eating dead flesh and wondering if that would help fix the emptiness she feels. Reading about this girl’s struggle upped the emotional aspect of the novella for me; you can tell that she doesn’t realize how far gone she is, or how unreasonable she’s become, and it’s almost like watching someone you’ve begun to care about slip away into madness.
I won’t say anything else, ’cause I really don’t want to spoil this one for you, and it’s one I’d definitely recommend reading (with the disclaimer about how intensely graphic it gets above). The scenes and story will stay with you for a long time – it’s been almost two months since I finished it, and it still pops into my mind from time to time, unsettling me and making me want to read more of Sara’s writing all at once.
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