By David L. Day
$11.00; 244 pages; March, 2013
Tearstone is a fast-paced, character-driven plunge into the occult where a strange artifact unleashes its rage on a small town with a dark secret. Two brothers, Tom and Kyle Burton, are brought back together again after their father’s suicide, forcing them to relive old memories that should have stayed buried. While Tom searches for answers to his father’s death—reading diaries, searching the house, asking questions—Kyle seeks out relief for a decade’s worth of guilt, guilt both he and his family share. But in a town where murder breeds faster than lust, revisiting their past might surface more trouble than either of them is ready to handle.
David Day combines the tropes of classic religious horror—control, memory loss, pregnancy, idolatry—with fresh ideas and thrills that will possess readers to keep turning the page in an attempt to figure out the monster within. His prose is direct and full, painting a clear picture that can be studied from every angle. It’s Day’s ability to utilize imagery as a way to instill panic and fear that is his greatest strength, as there are scenes and phrases that will continue to haunt me, not to mention the fact that I’ll never be able to walk into a library again without thinking of this novel.
His words will stay with you.
Day also uses a combination of strong female characters—Cassy, a deputy obsessed by the disappearance of her cousin, and Elana, a librarian and religious fanatic—and couples them against the secondary characters of Dorthea and Jessica, two lovers whose lives have been turned upside down after Dorthea became pregnant during a night neither of them can fully remember. These women each play a frightening role as they change, learn, and come to understand their positions in a town consumed by obsession, a fixation that stemmed from the unearthing of a stone, “polished smooth as glass, the color of fresh cut grass and streaked with red” (Day 12). But it’s not until a group of children go missing, and three graves show up—one of them empty—that their world’s truly go up in flames. Add on a few cases of murder, domestic violence, and a steady occurrence of miscarriages, and it’s hard to keep a town—not to mention its inhabitants—from falling apart.
Tearstone, Day’s debut novel, shows what happens when people ask too many questions and play with forces they don’t understand. It’s a novel of obsession—of physical objects and of mental strain—and it shows readers what happens when the dead don’t’ stay buried, and the living can’t control their actions. In the tradition of Rosemary’s Baby, and Storm of the Century, Day plays with the notion of a child bringing about a new age, a new beginning, but the twists and turns he adds along the way will have readers begging for more as the ending is almost as shocking as Elana’s spiritual revelation in the library.
–Stephanie M. Wytovich