Book Review by: Linda Workman-Crider
A harsh lesson in learning to respect the dead, the funeral parlor, and maybe above all, the effort that goes into a funerary floral arrangement. The lesson? A trip the bathroom can easily turn into a descent into hell.
Pot heads, Pam and Kevin, show up to the funeral of her favorite uncle not only high, but also wearing t-shirts and jeans, a lack of respect which Pam’s mother makes perfectly clear, not only to Pam, but to everyone in the funeral parlor. Deciding to depart after a much-needed trip to the restroom, Pam stops to steal an orchid on the way. She is caught and berated by the funeral director’s grandson and redirected to use the restrooms located in the basement which is currently under construction. The story finds them trapped under the funeral parlor and the plot-line concentrates on their experiences in their efforts to escape.
Pam Tripp is a smart 23-year-old woman with spiked burgundy hair and who stands at five feet two inches tall. She became a pothead in an act of rebellion toward her cold-hearted mother who showed no signs of appreciation for Pam even after she graduated from college. Pam’s choice in her boyfriend, Kevin, may have stemmed from that same rebellion or from her overwhelming need for unconditional love after her father’s death years ago.
Aside from the actions and reactions of Pam as the story unfolds, we really don’t get much more information than this regarding her character. I did briefly wonder if her last name of Tripp was given by the author in some symbolic reference to Pam’s habit of getting high, but decided it was merely a coincidence since Pam didn’t seem to be into anything stronger than marijuana. Though we are told that Pam is college graduate, if there is any reference to her current career I missed it. I do think that her character displays some emotional roundedness, however, as we move through the plot. She displays several different emotions. So even while we may not know much detail about her personal life, we do become aware that she is as emotional capable as anyone would be in the given scenario.
Kevin, Pam’s boyfriend, is a six-foot two inch starving artist who enjoys getting high. He is a risk-taker to the point of looking to lace their joint with some embalming fluid. He is the curious catalyst of this story and Pam’s pillar of strength with his unconditional love.
We, again, aren’t given a whole lot more in detail regarding Kevin’s personal or professional life, but his personality is the driving force of the plot moving forward. And honestly, whether he works with paints or clay would make no difference in the storyline except to build his profile. Again, like Pam, we see a character who rounds by emotional and physical reactions even in the absence of solid personal details.
Joyce Ward does an amazing job setting the gloomy tone and suspense required for a horror story through description and character reactions. Unfortunately, with the focus of the writing in these types of details, many other key details were overlooked which pull the reader out of the story to contemplate the errors. Sometimes it was minute detail, such as the fact that you can’t “flick off” a Bic type of lighter. Other times it was larger, such as only minutes passing where the reactions were as if days had passed or, at the very least, a large number of hours, or including a hope to be found by workers when workers were never present or expected to be present before this.
I had chosen this book hoping to have a Horror novel to recommend as Halloween approaches. Unfortunately, while I might be able to recommend a revised version of this novel, I cannot recommend this book as it currently written. While I find Joyce Ward to be a talented writer whose work is easy to read and agree that it is easy to fall into the emotion and tone of this book, I am unforgiving when major details in the story-telling don’t add up. If the only issues had been a lighter type or person stumbling into and “bouncing off” a mound of dirt, I would still have recommended The Lesson.