Review: “White Pines,” Gemma Amor

Pros: Stunning rural cosmic horror
Rating: 5 out of 5

I absolutely love Gemma Amor’s horror novel White Pines. Megs (Megan) has just been informed by her husband that their marriage is over. Since she just inherited a tiny cottage from her grandmother, she packs up the van and heads off to live by herself in the Scottish woods for a while. When she gets there, the locals seem almost to have been waiting for her. She spots an island off the coast that she can barely tear her eyes away from, and when she moves away from it her head starts to hurt. A colleague, Matthew, with whom she once had a one-night stand, shows up–he’s been in love with her for a while, and doesn’t want to waste any time now that she’s “available.” Megs, however, has more important things to think about. Like that island, her piercing headaches, and the mysterious tunnel under her house. Before she knows it, she’s caught up in events beyond her reckoning–and she’ll never be the same again.

One thing that amazed me about this book is that Amor managed to make a dream sequence that was interesting and meaningful, and that furthered the plot. I so rarely find visions or dreams in fiction to be worth the space they take up.

Megs hit a chord with me. Her confusion and anger and frustrated questioning of “why?” rang so true as she tried to deal with the reality of her marriage having fallen apart without her even having recognized it was happening. Of course she ends up having much more important things to think about, which keeps the divorce thread from becoming overly depressing.

The cosmic horror/rural horror aspects of this are fantastic. There’s a very bizarre thing going on in this rural town, and the residents will go to great lengths to keep it secret. Fortunately (unfortunately?) for Megs, she is not an outsider, even if she hasn’t been there since she was a child. Soon she’s going to be forced to realize that her missing finger wasn’t lost in an accident like her mother said it was. She’s connected to the island. And no one but her can save her.

Content note for mild sexual material as well as some body horror. Most of all I love the way this book ends; one problem with cosmic horror is that it’s hard to end in a satisfying manner, but Amor pulls it off!

“The Island deceives.”

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