A somewhat low key The Shining, Kind Nepenthe exchanges the Overlook Hotel for land in Humboldt County, Northern California.
Rebecca wants to be self sufficient and raise her daughter, Megan, to live off the land. For this reason she’s hitched her wagon to Mark, who prefers to be called Calendula, and are living at Coyote’s grow farm to earn enough money to buy their own parcel of land from looking after a couple of harvests of pot.
Their neighbor is Diesel, a qualified diesel mechanic turned drug dealer, whose family once owned all the land on the hills. Recently reunited with his son, DJ, and soon to be a grandfather, things look like they’re on the up.
There are also ghosts; ever present reminders of the poor choices, dangerous mistakes, and blood spilled on the hills by well meaning people just trying to make a better life for themselves. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and all that.
Brockmeyer writes with a confidence that belies the fact this is his debut novel. His characters are real people. They know they’ve made mistakes and hurt the people they love, but they think this time will be different. They’re flawed, perhaps fatally so, but they’re written with compassion and understanding.
It was the excellent depiction of the characters that lifted this above a depressing slow burn descent into inevitable madness, despair and death. People who are reviled by most of society were shown as they are – human – and even though I knew it wouldn’t happen, I was urging them to see the error of their ways and make better choices rather than follow the path of the sins of their fathers.
The atmosphere was also well established from the get go; laid on thick like a claustrophobic fog that the characters couldn’t escape from, I knew it was a car crash ending in disaster from the very first page, but I still couldn’t look away.
However, I wouldn’t classify this as horror. The ghosts, while real, seemed to stand as symbolic reminders of the mistakes of the past and stood, almost in Greek chorus, to witness the calamities unfolding. Perhaps the obscure title – Kind Nepenthe, Nepenthe being the drug of forgetfulness – refers to how quickly humans forget what has gone before, and rush to the same foolish actions.
The depictions of the pot growing were also well written, as was the destructive nature of drugs and addiction.
I award Kind Nepenthe…
Kind Nepenthe is available for $5.54 ebook and $16.95 print book on Amazon.