Grief Rituals by Sam Richard

Jun 29, 2023
Grief Rituals by Sam Richard HORROR BOOK REVIEW

Grief Rituals by Sam Richard

A Horror Book Review by Mark Walker

From Wonderland Award-Winning author Sam Richard comes twelve more uncomfortable tales of sorrow, ruination, and transformation.

A young widow joins a spousal loss support group with bizarre methods of healing. An aging punk is stalked by something ancient and familiar in the labyrinthian halls of an art complex. A couple renting out a small movie theater are interrupted by a corrosive force of nature. Through these stories of weird horror and visceral sorrow, Richard shows us ways grief can be transcendent-but only if we know which rituals to practice.

Trigger warnings – suicide and depression

It’s been a while since I reviewed an anthology or, at least, it feels like it, so it was nice to take a detour into the world of short stories again.

I say “nice” but I guess I really mean intriguing and disturbing and perhaps a little upsetting. Sam Richard presents twelve tales of loss and heartache that are informed and inspired by his own grief and experience of being widowed.

Because of this, many of the stories focus on men trying to come to terms with loss in a variety of ways, whether that be taking themselves off into the mountains, joining a trauma support group, or people-watching in the Jiffy Lube (hopefully that will pique your interest). But there are also characters who find themselves in terrifying situations and forced to reflect on their very existence, rarely getting to experience it for much longer than the dozen or so pages of the tale.

“Eclectic” is an easy word to bandy around, but I think it is apt for Sam’s collection. While the messages vary, and I may not have “got” everything that Sam is trying to convey, the emotions and experiences of the characters are wide and varied but largely based around thoughts and feelings we will all have experienced at one time or another. However, the situations we find those characters in are anything but normal.

Giant wolves in the mountains reflect one man’s grief and pain from loss. A mall security robot terrorizes trapped teenagers (a possible homage to Chopping Mall?). Pagan deities hang around frat parties, while a young woman takes back control from her abusers as a blob-like ‘thing’ devours people in a cinema. There is symbolism aplenty as grief creates life as much as mourns it; people find peace in dreams and memories and one man makes the ultimate sacrifice to atone for his sins.

All of humanity is here.

There is so much tucked into these twelve shorts, that I am sure I have missed a lot of the deeper meaning and metaphor hidden in the pages. I suspect that was the reason there are one or two stories that I didn’t connect with as well as the others but, on the whole, Grief Rituals is a solid collection of thought-provoking explorations of grief, loss and regret.

Something for everyone, but it will be triggering for some, especially those with recent, or deep relationships with grief. So, proceed with caution but, dare I say it, as upsetting as some of these tales can be, there is opportunity for catharsis and peace within them as well.

Grief Rituals by Sam Richard

Grief Rituals by Sam Richard

Available from Amazon

And Weirdpunk Books

From Wonderland Award-Winning author Sam Richard comes twelve more uncomfortable tales of sorrow, ruination, and transformation.
A young widow joins a spousal loss support group with bizarre methods of healing. An aging punk is stalked by something ancient and familiar in the labyrinthian halls of an art complex. A couple renting out a small movie theater are interrupted by a corrosive force of nature. Through these stories of weird horror and visceral sorrow, Richard shows us ways grief can be transcendent—but only if we know which rituals to practice.

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