Rating: 4 out of 5
In Edward Lorn’s Everything is Horrible Now: A Novel of Cosmic Horror, Father George kills his wife and child, sits muttering on his porch, then, when a neighbor child (Wesley) arrives, shoots himself in the head. Before he does, he tells the boy “everything is horrible now.” Thus begins a series of events that will rip this small town wide open–and change it forever.
The characters are amazing. Kirby Johnson sees “the Coat Men” in his room at night, and because everyone knows of his “unnatural desires” (he’s gay), it’s assumed he killed his mother when she dies violently. He has a hell of a tale to tell, and is somehow central to the inexplicable things happening at this time. And as he says, “everything is horrible now.” Sheriff Harold “Hap” Carringer is a psychopath–he once killed two people because the girl refused to dance with him, and someone unknown covered it up. He’s also a bully, but not entirely in the usual and expected ways. He stops to talk to 11-year-old Petey, who keeps slipping out of his grandmother’s house to walk around town, and despite Petey being fat and a bit weird, doesn’t bully him at all. Beulah Blackwood, Petey’s grandmother, has custody of him because his parents were murdered in front of him. She thinks she means well, and she kind of does, but her zealous version of Christianity sometimes leads her to be cruel as well.
At the start, when Petey is talking to Hap, he comes across as neurodivergent. He doesn’t really read social cues and doesn’t seem to understand abstract language. But later, when he befriends Wesley, he seems to have a better handle on abstract language, so I was a little confused there. He’s still a very interesting character who’s a little bit different from your average 11-year-old.
There’s a family in town that seems to have leprosy, or perhaps it’s something called “the Blood Curse.” They have some interesting family history, and Gertrude, the mother, has had some very strange experiences in her lifetime. It’s thanks to her family that the Bays, Marietta and Francis, died when the town crucified and burned Marietta for witchcraft. Yes, they burned a woman for witchcraft in the not so distant past.
There’s a place called Humble Hill that seems devoted to trying out “Conversion Therapy,” or a treatment for homosexuality. Unfortunately for everyone, things go awry when Kirby Johnson is brought to the center.
Things get weirder and weirder as the story progresses. There are gods, and manifestations of human emotions and memories, there’s a place called the Roaming and another place called the Someplace. There are creepy dreams and visions, and some very creepy reality as well. This is a very messed-up town, and it’s hurtling toward some sort of conclusion.
I absolutely recommend this book. There were one or two things that confused me, or that I think didn’t actually get answered, and the story gets more and more surreal as it goes, but I held on by my fingernails and the whole thing was a serious trip!
Content note: suicide, homicide, child death, rape, racism (including slurs), domestic violence, homophobia (note that homophobia and what a horrible thing it is is a major theme of the book, so it shows up a lot).