"American Cannibal" Book Review
Written by Zach Rosenberg
Published by Maenad Press
Edited by Rebecca Rowland
2023, 352 pages, Fiction
Released on March 7, 2023
Man devouring man is the story of history. America’s founding and expansion are the stories of consumption. In American Cannibal, Rebecca Rowland and the authors take us from America’s early founding to the modern era with willing and unwilling cannibals, a delightfully macabre and twisted anthology.
A particularly strong tale leads off the anthology with Candace Nola’s “The Lost Diary.” One of the best working writers of horror fiction today, Nola knows that cannibalism and all it represents has been the story since before America was a country. Taking us back in time to the days of Roanoke through a fictional found diary, the narrator details the cold winters and starvation that begin to pick off the colonists. Until hunters begin bringing back meat for the colonists. The secret of the meat is no surprise, but Nola manages to unfurl this story in such a way as to be immensely disturbing and brutal.
A mother’s love is the strongest force of all in “Carnivore,” by Jeremy Megargee. When a mother and her child are trapped with no hope of rescue and no food, the mother provides all she has for her girl, making meals of her own flesh until she can give no more. A strangely touching and heartrending story of what humans will do to protect those they love.
“Wendigo Dreams” by Owl Goingback is a heart-pounding tale set in Canada, a nation beset by famine and rage with the Native population pushed off their land. One man treks deep into the snow where he uncovers the secrets of the Wendigo, the Algonquin spirit of hunger that infects those who engage in the great taboo of cannibalism. Goingback crafts a story with the most chilling of endings, easily a standout from such a talent.
Gwendolyn Kiste comes to the subject with her unique brand of humor and sophistication. ““The Hungry Wives of Bleak Street” is handled with a deft touch and a unique second-person view of suburban wives sick of oppression and mistreatment, who opt for a very specific sort of revenge. Kiste’s almost ethereal and breathy writing style mixes brilliantly with the subject matter.
“Let’s Hear It for the Boy” by Bridgett Nelson is a metaphor for governmental neglect during the AIDS crisis, and how victim blaming can lead to communities eating one another alive. In this case, quite literally. This story mixes absolutely perfectly with the dark comedy “Y2K Feast” by Jeff Strand, both taking social commentary and mingling with grim touches that have the reader smirking the whole while.
Overall, American Cannibal is a fantastically curated anthology of terror that devours the reader from the inside out.
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