Short Take: “The Fading Place,” Mary SanGiovanni

Pros: Tense!
Cons: Starts out a little slowly, but it works
Rating: 4 out of 5

Mary SanGiovanni’s novella The Fading Place immediately sees Charlie Van Houten carjacked by Simone. Charlie has her baby Hayley in the back seat, and Simone wants the baby. It gradually becomes clear that Simone is paranoid and off her rocker, and plans to kill Charlie and take her baby. How will Charlie outwit her?

This tale isn’t a high-octane thriller. It spends time explaining why it’s so hard for Charlie to have children, and why she’s raising Hayley without Hayley’s father John. It gets into a bit of exploration of the history of the area of Wexton, New Jersey, and the rate at which people tend to disappear in the area. Note that while this is not a paranormal tale, it clearly takes place in the same world as some of SanGiovanni’s paranormal tales (Chills, Behind the Door, Thrall–in fact, Wexton is next door to the town of Thrall).

Simone and Charlie are both interesting characters, and for a short novella there’s plenty of personality. The question of whether and how Charlie will save herself and Hayley provides plenty of tension and suspense. Well worth a read, I believe.

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