AURORA BOREALIS by Kristin Shoemaker
Genre: Fiction/Dark Comedy (?)
Rating: Not Recommended
ISBN: 141169242X, $14.95, 228 pp, 2006
This story is described by the author as a "study in what it takes to send the most unlikely person over the edge" and in the press release as "dark comedy."
The plot is not complicated. Alice Pendleton, who has just received her first book contract, allows her scheming older sister Aurora, who has fallen on hard times, to move in and take over her home and life. While Aurora works to sabotage Alice’s career, the days turn into years, five to be exact. Alice, with the support of her new husband Ron, the Fed Ex man, decides to kill Aurora.
I quote from the opening to give you an idea of the author’s writing style:
""For five years now I have lived. . . lived with that scourge. Today it ended, quickly, with only a few wet gurgles and a couple of stains on the rug. I thought I’d feel guilty. Ha! And did I feel guilty when I quit drinking? No. Did I feel guilty when I quit smoking? Hell, no! So why should I feel guilty about starting to really live again?
But I’m getting ahead of myself. It started five years ago now, the day after my first book was accepted at an up-and-coming press somewhere in Kansas, someplace I’ve never been to and never hope to visit. Someplace called "Aurora".
Aurora, coincidently, is my older sister’s name. In the same coincidental vein, my dear Aurora came to visit me. Aurora never left. Aurora had decided to start a new life here in Fleming, New Hampshire. Perhaps "decide" isn’t the right world. She thrust herself upon me when I signed the book contract, perhaps sensing the stench of money.
Her eighty-million-year-old husband had just died and left all of his money to the children. According to her, that was something "just not supposed to be done." A week after the funeral she was on my door step, the door step of her favorite sister Alice. I should have stopped it right there and claimed the last five years of my life for myself. But I’m getting ahead of myself again. It’s just frazzled nerves.
How am I ever going to get the stains out of the rug? Damned white carpet.""
Kristin Shoemaker can write and the book is well edited. However, for a story to be considered a good story, it must be honest or at least seem reasonable. . . even a fiction story. Can the reader relate to such behavior?
Alice knew her sister's predisposition and foibles before allowing her to move in and right off, she lets her take over. Would you do that? Would I do that? It’s very clear in the beginning that Alice had some serious problems with boundaries, standing up for herself and an inability to say, "No!" Then the author is telling us that the only solution to the sister Aurora problem is to kill her?. . . with no feelings of guilt? Here we have two people, Alice and Ron, who think killing is no big deal . . . just when and how is the only problem. Like . . . maybe after lunch?
The message in this "dark comedy" (?) is that it’s okay to kill someone when you’re angry and frustrated because you didn’t have the wherewithall to stand up for yourself and say, "no." Ha! I say that doesn’t track, but of course, then there wouldn't be a story. Anton LaVey might say, "Don't complain about anything to which you need not subject yourself." Gary Slutkin would say, "Violence is an infectious disease."
If this was a "study in what it takes to send the most unlikely person over the edge", then I would say, "study a little harder." Most homes have a phonebook with yellow pages full of unlimited resources for help. Call a friend, go to an AA or Al-Anon meeting and get it off your chest. I used realistic examples because the author created realistic contemporary people, and therefore, there were other options besides murder.
Does the author understand the significance of her message? You might think that I have no sense of humor, and in this case, that would be true.
According to U.S. News & World Report in an article written by Nancy Shute, the United States leads the developed world in deaths by firearm, and violence is the No. 1 killer of teenagers and young adults in major cities. In many places shooting a neighbor or child has become the social norm. The disease-causing agent is not a microbe but a thought. Gary Slutkin founded the Chicago Center for Violence Prevention and sees violence as unhealthy behavior that can be changed. Its CeaseFire antiviolence campaign is designed to interrupt harmful behavior and change social norms--immunize against the thought and cure the disease.
Therefore, based on the author's message and in support of Mr. Slutkin's antiviolence campaign and my own personal beliefs, I do not recommend this book.
Kristin Shoemaker works as a reference/systems librarian in Massachusetts. She has been previously published in Soundings East, The Axe Factory, Poetpourri and Poems That Thump in the Dark. Aurora Borealis is her debut novel.
Reviewed by Kaye Trout - June 16, 2006 - Copyright