Short Take: “Astoria,” S.P. Miskowski

Pros: Insightful
Cons: Very internal
Rating: 4 out of 5

In S.P. Miskowski’s Knock Knock, middle-aged Ethel unexpectedly became pregnant and gave birth to Connie Sara, a psychopathic little girl who killed animals and terrified her mother. In the novella Astoria, we see what happens when Ethel leaves town after her daughter’s funeral. She decides she needs to escape, and signs up to house-sit a man’s house in nearby Astoria. However, she isn’t going to get away from the fears that are haunting her that easily.

This is an extremely internal narrative, exploring Ethel’s feelings from the time her parents died in a fire when she was young, to everything she went through with Connie Sara. She’s always been the charity case, the poor relative, learning to smile sweetly and curtsey so her aunt would get better tips as a seamstress. Now she’s done with smiling and saying thank you. She’s ready to cut loose and take what she wants through lies and moxie. There’s a lot of insight here into the kind of woman she is in the time and place and circumstances in which she lives.

Minor content warning: there’s some discussion about Connie Sara’s tendency to maim and kill animals, and there’s a small amount of adult material and gore. This is really an internal horror story, however, not a gore-fest. I think I got a lot more out of it from having read Knock Knock first, but I think you could read them in a different order.

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