Saturday, February 24, 2024

Saying Goodbye in The Angel of Indian Lake by Stephen Graham Jones

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I met Jade Daniels two years ago. I said goodbye to her just over a month ago. This is the hardest review I’ve sat down to write. The Angel of Indian Lake by Stephen Graham Jones hits shelves on March 26th, but Saga Press was generous and sent me an advanced copy. When it arrived, I read the dedication, got teary eyed, and set it down for weeks. I just wasn’t ready.

The Angel of Indian Lake
The Angel of Indian Lake

To clarify at the start: I’m not implying or spoiling anything by saying this was a goodbye. All of the promotional material has been focused on this being the end of her story. I’m also not going to give away any plot spoilers for this book or the other two books in the series. So if my love for Jade inspires you and this is the first you’re hearing about the trilogy—go pick up My Heart is a Chainsaw.

Since I can’t tell you about the what, I’m going to focus on the how. Both previous books in this series were told in third person. This one, though, we’re right with Jade. The Angel of Indian Lake is told in first person. Stephen Graham Jones is a master of perspective. And he should be, he’s had the practice. This is the man who wrote the same book in first and third person, recognized it wasn’t working, and wrote it in second person. He knows what point of view a story needs. Making the switch for the final novel in The Indian Lake trilogy was nothing short of the right choice.

My Heart is a Chainsaw and Don't Fear the Reaper
My Heart is a Chainsaw and Don’t Fear the Reaper

Keeping with the series as a whole, The Angel of Indian Lake also utilizes interlude chapters. Mostly, these help to ground the reader into Jade’s life after Don’t Fear The Reaper from outside her head. Sometimes, though, we get to read her own words. This means we as a reader get to experience Jade Daniels three ways: in real time from within her perspective, in a completely outside commentary on her actions, and as she has chosen to present herself in the written word. If we’re going to say goodbye, here, we’re going to really know her.

And by knowing her this way, we feel with her. I have not experienced an emotional response like this with a book before. I was devastated. Now, a book bringing me to tears is nothing new. I do tend to cry fairly easily. But this book… it was another level.  The way Stephen Graham Jones can evoke that level of emotion is a testament to his gift for storytelling. Because what he did here is that he made it real. Proofrock, Idaho is real. Every person in this book is real. Their pain is real, so my pain was real. And raw. And honest. And beautiful.

The Indian Lake Trilogy
The Indian Lake Trilogy

I just don’t want to say goodbye. And it isn’t goodbye, not really. I’ll revisit these books like a slasher cycle, every few years. The impact they’ve made on my life is irrevocable. The knowledge I’ve learned from Jade will always live in my head, in my heart. But The Angel of Indian Lake is an ending. And what an ending it is. Threads from the whole trilogy come together. If everything is real, it is also true that everything mattered. It’s satisfying. Yes, endings are emotionally difficult. But they’re also technically difficult. And again—Stephen Graham Jones does not disappoint.

At this point, it feels unnecessary to say how much I loved this book. I will treasure the experience of it for years to come. I hope if this is all new to you that you take a chance on Jade Daniels. I hope you find joy and catharsis in this small, bloody, Idaho town. I hope this review reads like the part of my heart it is. This may be her final book, but she’ll always be my final girl.

Advanced Reader Copy courtesy of Saga Press.

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