Horror takes many forms. Sometimes it is big and foreboding and gruesome. Other times, it is small and quiet and all the more deeply disturbing because of it. In Kaaron Warren's novel Slights, we are presented with one of these quiet, terrible horrors. This book is certainly not for those easily put off, as its dark attitude pervades the entirety of this gripping work.
Steve is a girl who lives through a dark life. The novel starts out with her wrecking her car, resulting in the death of her mother, and her father is already dead, shot while in the line of duty as a police officer. Steve's life focuses on death, an odd juxtaposition indeed. She follows death, and it seems to follow her. As the years progress, Steve learns more and more about the dark room she enters every time she nears death, but each time she manages to come back to life before leaving it for good. She digs in her backyard, finding trinkets, and she deals with her family and her sister-in-law's family, neither of which seems to take a great interest in her, with few exceptions.
The crux of the book is the room Steve enters when she dies, but that isn't the horrific part. Steve is the part that grips you, and she is the part that scares you, as you can't look away while her life seems to spiral out of her control to a point where she can't get it back. With each new year, Steve finds a new pain to experience, and her magnetism towards these events is far too painful to bear, yet bear it you do with the hopes that she will somehow correct her life, get it back on track, and find something to live for instead of living to die.
Warren creates a vivid, realistic character, one with a sad life that is falling apart more each day. The character grasps onto you, and doesn't let you go. For each pain she goes through (and there are many), you go through them with her, wanting things to end up okay, for Steve to have a happily ever after, even if you have the haunting feeling that you just don't think Steve can ever get there. The novel, far from being about the horrible life after that Steve experiences, is about Steve herself, and there are few character novels that do it better. This novel can be painful to read, but only because of how much you come to care and hope for the main character.
While not for the faint of heart by any means, and certainly not something your emotions could survive through is you read it back to back, over and over, after finishing this book (and feeling drained in that "it hurt so good" way) I can't not be reminded of it frequently. This book has a power to it, one that is not to be missed.