Suffer the Darkness
A Horror Book Review by Justin Allec
Quick and mean, Yolanda Sfetsos’s novella Suffer the Darkness layers supernatural elements with family trauma to create a satisfying horror story. When sixteen-year old Molly disappears from the streets of Thicket while out for a morning jog, her parents are suitably devastated. Unlike some other children that have gone missing around Thicket, Molly’s remains are never found. Half mourning, always questioning, and recently divorced, her mother Kaelyn’s unable to let go of hope. She’s been going through the motions of life, the only bright spots being her young twins and a maturing relationship with Roy, the local sheriff. When Molly reappears sixteen months later in the most violent fashion, Kaelyn’s initial relief and joy change to suspicion and outright fear, as her daughter begins to act…strange. Creepy voices, bad smells, manipulative behavior, selective amnesia…what’s up with Molly, Kaelyn? Do you really want to find out?
An eerie introduction that occurs on the day Molly goes missing prepares us for the rapid events of the story. Sfetsos breaks the novella into four chapter/parts, each comprising of a day following Molly’s reappearance, until the heightened climax. Sftesos keeps her writing brisk and efficient as she follows Kaelyn down a path of supernatural madness. Each bizarre detail or unexplainable event further throws our main character into turmoil, which also leaves us as readers wanting to know more. As genre fans we’re obviously jumping up and down in the background yelling “don’t trust your daughter, Molly, nothing that comes back from the woods smelling like that can be good!”, but part of the fun with a story like this is watching your protagonist find out how damned they really are. And hoo boy, is Kaelyn in for it.
When the supernatural creepiness starts ramping up it taps into those horror conventions, and Sfetsos proves to have a deft hand with those scenes. Demonic apparitions, inexplicable visions, and further disappearances increase the tension as Kaelyn slowly learns the truth about her daughter:
“Dark circles made the skin under Molly’s eyes appear bruised, and the cracks on the corners of her moth caught saliva bubbles. The stitches peeking out from her pajama top appeared so much darker, she couldn’t help but remember the doctor mentioning vines.”
Appropriately gooey, occasionally violent, and with some true curve-balls as Kaelyn races toward a conclusion, Sfetsos makes the horror elements work. What ends up elevating Suffer beyond its demonic trappings is Kaelyn’s role as a mother. When Kaelyn first sees Molly, she’s reminded immediately of how much time has passed. Now, being a parent myself, I can say how fleeting time feels en masse, even if individual days seem to drag forever. The thought of missing one day with my kids feels agonizing, never mind the nightmare of not knowing where they are for more than a year. Sfetsos manages to convey that pain while also examining how difficult it would be to carry on, but also to pick up anew. With plenty of heart along with the haunting, Suffer the Darkness easily earns its slim place on the shelf.
Suffer the Darkness by Yolanda Sfetsos
Kae Roscoe’s daughter went missing in the woods sixteen months ago but when she returns, she’s not the same person. She hardly speaks, doesn’t eat, responds with extreme violence, and things get worse when she’s released from the hospital. There’s definitely something very different about Molly, and her reappearance is making strange things happen to everyone around her.