Damien A. Waters’ “Cry Your Way Home” is a truly moving, gripping, unsettling collection of uncanny horror that is sure to hook fans of the eerie and the strange. She artfully blends dark fairy-tale, weird fiction and human dramas to produce a moving collection of stories, some of which are very hard-hitting indeed.
The stories are consistently of a high standard. Waters is adept at keeping the creatures and entities that populate the shadows of her stories either entirely in the shadows, or in the peripheries of the vision, even when they stand in plain sight of the reader. The true power of the stories, however, doesn’t lie in the strength of the horror of the other, but in the skilfully-written human elements of the stories.
At the core of many of the stories in “Cry Your Way Home” are relationships, whether fraught or broken or unhealthy or lost. A lost loved one, for example, can provide just as much horror as the eldritch forces behind events. The bond between parents and children is explored in several, whether because of misunderstandings that lead to tragedy or the terrible loss that comes with losing a child, and the yearning to regain what has been torn away. Bullying is another common theme, one that often begs the question of, in a world populated by weird creatures lurking in the peripheries, just who the real monsters are. This is where Waters’ strength really lies, in blending the boundaries between the real and unreal, the human and the inhuman, the supernatural and the mundane, and it is this that makes “Cry Your Way Home” a must-read for fans of weird fiction and horror.
While the entire collection is unsettlingly enjoyable, there are a number of stories that deserve special mentions:
Deep Within the Marrow, Hidden in My Smile – a chilling modern-day dark fairytale about step-sisters clashing as they adjust to their new family, with a sense of mounting dread and mystery that is excellently handled.
On the Other Side of the Door, Everything Changes – one of the least weird and most moving stories. Here Waters weaves a tale of cyber-bullying and fraught family relationships colliding tragically.
S is for Soliloquy – a fun take on the tropes of superheroes balancing their alter-egos, their professional lives, and the twists and turns of dating.
Take a Walk in the Night, My Love – an unsettling story about a woman’s uncanny tendency to wander in the night, and her husband’s reaction to this.
The Serial Killer’s Astronaut Daughter – one of the most memorable stories of the set. A gripping psychological drama about being controlled by and judged against a past you have no power over, and how to regain agency in your life through your own will.
A Lie You Give, and Thus I Take – one of the cleverest stories I’ve read in a long time. Here Waters frames an abusive relationship from the perspective of the victim through a bewildering mish-mash of fairy-tales. Hansel and Gretel, Bluebeard, Snow White and Little Red Riding Hood blur together as two minds wrestle over who gets to tell the story, and who gets to decide how it is told.
In the Spaces Where You Once Lived – a truly moving tale about losing a beloved spouse to Alzheimer’s which provides a poignant note to end the collection on.
In conclusion, “Cry Your Way Home” is highly recommended to lovers of the weird, poignant and unsettling. Waters’ work is engaging and incisive, and makes a fine addition to any bookshelf.