House of Fallen Trees by Gina Ranalli

A Keith Dugger Review

I did something very bad, very evil, and very bad once (yes, it was so bad, I had to say it twice). As punishment, my school board assigned guardian locked me in the imaginative recesses of bizarro author Gina Ranalli’s brain. I was afraid. I was shaken. And I was afraid.

I was absolutely terrified that I’d be alone. That I’d be shoved into a dark corner and left to grow long, curly, nose hairs, greying with age until everyone forgot about me. OK. Until that one guy I gave my pet hamster to when I was eight forgot about me.

Instead, I was happy to learn that there is a party going on in there! Bizarro fans already know the award winning Ranalli and her firm stake in the hallowed grounds that is bizarro fiction. Even though I was late to the party (Ranalli already had numerous short stories and seven novels published by the time she found me), I feel lucky as a reader, a new fan, and a writer to have experienced her work.

Readers looking to get a fungus-riddled toe wet in the shallow end of the bizarro pool will be pleased to know that Ranalli paints a subtle horror with House of Fallen Trees. If you like progressive fiction and a haunted house in the middle of nowhere shaped like a sea-faring vessel, then this is a terrific place for you to start.

From the first sentence, Ranalli will pull a reader in. “Two men have the carcass.” I promise that she continues to build the suspense from there. The main character, Karen Lewis, is drawn into a dark plot as she searches for clues that she prays will help her find her missing brother Sean. As the world around her moves and morphs into surreal places and events, Karen starts losing time and almost loses herself. If it wasn’t for the support of her brother’s boyfriend, Rory, and the new interest in her own life (Saul), she might have fallen the same fate as Sean.

Once a new reader is exposed to Ranalli’s wonderful voice, pacing, and style he or she will be prepared for the other excellent works in Ranalli’s book bag (I’m sure it’s a well-used hemp shoulder bag with a loose flap struggling to keep all the imagination in one place). There is nothing quite like Suicide Girls in the Afterlife, but I’ll leave that for a later review. If you haven’t read any of Ranalli’s fiction, do your brain a favor and start with House of Fallen Trees. If you are already a Ranalli fan, you’ll be stupendously pleased with this horror tale as it shows the author’s ability to stretch her genre-busting style and cement her own place in the history of the bizarro movement.

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