In THREE TERRIBLE TALES, Margaret Chen presents the stories of three seemingly average, if lonely, women whose stories hinge on the question, “Did that really happen, or am I just crazy?”
In “Mephistopheles in Miami” art writer Amanda moves into a new apartment complex to work on her biography of George Thomas Bethany, inventor of the roller coaster. No one lives in the apartment upstairs, but she keeps hearing footsteps and a running tap. In “The Pirate from Blackmoor,” Sarah is an office assistant who thinks she mostly fits in. She tries to tease out the relationship status of her coworkers Jennifer and Lowell and looks forward to the weekly visits of the boss’s handsome son. But then an unexpected envelope drastically changes how her coworkers view her, which is very different from how she sees herself. In “Cracked,” the final “terrible” tale, Helen takes her two daughters camping; she’s particularly excited as she’s booked a cabin instead of a tent camping site. The beginning of their trip is ruined by a female neighbor who watches them, makes wild accusations and makes Helen deeply uncomfortable.
Chen’s language is simple, but with is she is able to brilliantly characterize the loneliness of all three of her protagonists. She is also particularly gifted at characterizing creepiness with minimal dialogue. These stories are light on action: they spend most of their time fleshing out the main characters so that, when things start to get strange, the reader doesn’t question the sanity of the character until the character does. All three of these stories end almost immediately after what could be termed the inciting incident—this succeeds in leaving the reader with a greater sense of unease for all of the questions left unanswered (with the exception of “The Pirate from Blackmoor,” which felt like it just ended as things were getting interesting).
Margaret Chen’s language is simple and she is particularly gifted at characterizing creepiness in THREE TERRIBLE TALES, which masterfully encapsulates the loneliness of her protagonists, while exploring their sanity in three intriguing and eerie stories.
~Meaghan O’Brien for IndieReader