Love Never Dies

Author: David Sodergren

Muriel McAuley has grown up, married, grieved, seen horrors and happiness, and plans to end her days, all in Witchaven. But an unscrupulous developer has found the charming little Scottish costal town and is steadily buying out and scaring away residents. Only Muriel and a few of the older residents remain, and the pressure and unethical tactics are escalating. People are dying now. What hope does one old woman, living only with her memories, have?

Everything changes, however, when the Haar (an ocean fog) roles in one day and Muriel finds a pathetic, otherworldly creature dying on the beach. Her heart goes out to it, this displaced animal with no hope of survival, and she brings it home, puts it in her bathtub, names it Avalon, and begins feeding it blood. That’s when things get weird, surreally beautiful, and very, very gruesome.

The Haar is a strange horror tale. Part HP Lovecraft, part treatise on grief and a lifetime of memories, part stick-it-to-the-man thriller; this little story has a bit of bizarreness and beauty for everyone. And in between it all . . . a lot of eyeballs, death, and the lifetime love that transcends it all. Shut up and take my money . . .

I was skeptical when I started this story. It was selected by one of my horror book clubs, and it wasn’t my pick. There wasn’t a lot of detail about it, and the evil developer drama sounded a bit stereotyped (and it is). Said developer is a cut-out villain, dripping evil. He runs around the beach naked with his various beach babes, just to horrify old ladies. He’s bought off the police, who laugh maniacally, and he pays guys to make construction noise at night. It’s not believable, and this is the only part of the story that lacks charm and finesse. But the rest – the introduction of Avalon and Muriel’s relationship with this creature and its tie to her lost husband – all resonate so strongly that we could care less about the more overdone aspects of the narrative. We’re here for Avalon, deep-sea creatures older than humanity, a smattering of bloody revenge, and one woman’s lonely love. Cue the Kleenex and the mops.

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

Avalon was, of course, my favorite character. This creature treads a thin, weird moral line, exhibiting a certain empathy and trans-species love that makes us both wonder and go “awwww” when we really, really shouldn’t. His brief explanations of the sea, of his longevity and life, give us just enough to hint at that cyclopean world of the deep and things beyond our kin, yet Muriel remains un-curious. And this, too, fits. This is an old woman, at the end of her life, still grieving her husband who was lost at sea, and her desperation drives the tale and pulls at our heart strings. She’s also a strong character, and though she is lost in her own internal battles, there’s still some strong female energy there that garners our respect. We’re ride or die with Muriel, and so, it seems, is this mysterious, people-eating creature with one giant eye.

While The Haar isn’t perfect (ahem, that stupid developer dude and his paper-thin schemes), it’s literary soul simply glitters. It takes us on a journey of the deep and of the human heart. It captures the imagination and the heart, and in the end, it leaves us with a nugget of horrible wonder. Highly recommended.

– Frances Carden

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Frances Carden
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