Family Curse Takes Deep Dive Into Nuerodivergence
“Tenacity Plys makes sure nothing will hit us as realistically as fiction does. The work makes one question our very history and horror….simply let this novelette take you where it wants, and without questions.”-Pascale Potvin, Editor-in-Chief of Wrongdoing Magazine
Whether or not you’re a fan of horror, you’ll enjoy a quick tumble through the woods in “Family Curse Field Notebooks (1880-2020). The story takes us through four generations of a family plagued by all manner of lore surrounding strange disappearances in the woods surrounding their family home.
“Family Curse is a sardonic epistolary mystery, a unique narrative braided with humor and slow-building dread.”-Sloane Leong, author of Graveneye and Prism Stalker
About the Book
They say in town that every generation, fairies lure a member of Virgil’s family into the local woods, never to be seen again. Virgil doesn’t really care about that; they’re just squatting at their aunt’s vacant house during quarantine. But one night, they’re awoken by a knocking at the back door that leads them into a tangle of family secrets, and a mystery that’s as heartbreaking as it is chilling.
To understand their family history and avoid disappearing themself, Virgil has to piece together journal entries from three generations of their relatives, who all spent their lives wondering why their siblings were taken. Has a serial killer been operating in the area for over a century? Could it be the aliens Virgil’s great-uncle saw on an acid trip? And who is the figure watching them all from the forests’ edge?
Every relative has their pet theory, and they get to argue about it in the margins as each narrator leaves comments on the others’ writing via Post-Its, footnotes, and more. The found-document form is stretched to the limit by this cacophonous debate across time, and in the end no one story holds the whole truth.
If Virgil can solve the puzzle, they won’t just save themselves—they’ll put more than a hundred years’ worth of family history to rest. This story of a neurodivergent family’s struggle to understand themselves is by turns spooky, funny, sad, and hopeful despite everything.
“With a measure of strangeness and a measure of humor, Plys artfully deconstructs a family curse. The reader is left with troubling questions: what does it mean to be alien, estranged, lost in the woods–even amongst one’s own family?”-Germ Lynn, author of Pressured Speech
It’s weird to say a horror book is cute, right? But there were definitely parts of this that I thought was cute. Like how every generation thought the last generation was silly for their beliefs whether it be the Devil or aliens, each more modern generation thought themselves more logical. This was both condescending and weirdly adorable.
As a queer, neurodivergent person, the representation incredibly impressed me in this book. The main character – or at least the modern MC – was both queer and ND. Several other family members definitely would have been flagged for testing, and many didn’t marry – which in the old times was a good sign of queerness.
It was an incredibly quick read. I think it would qualify as a novella. I finished it in less than 24-hours twice. I read it once in ebook, and then reread it in physical form. I’m old-school and almost always prefer physical books – unless they’re 900 pages and are going to aggravate my carpal tunnel – but this one also benefits heavily from physical form. As you trek through the various generations of “field notebooks” or diaries, future generations make notes – and it’s much easier to keep up with those in the physical copy. I always find this to be true of footnotes. But if you don’t have trouble with footnotes and ebooks, then go for it!
The horror portion of this book was a bit of a slow burn, and it was all implied and psychological. I’m not big on horror, but I still enjoy a good psychological scare. This fit the bill, and definitely met with the creepy factor. I’m starting to give horror more of a try, and this book definitely helped in that endeavour.
“Family Curse is a densely packed and layered novella that merits a reread. It achieves an unusual and delightful mix of chills, comedic relief, and thoughtful consideration.”-Anna Veriani, author of The Winter Quarters
Who’s It For
If you enjoy gentle, psychological horror, and good LGBTQIA/neurodivergent representation, then you’re going to love this book. The author developed the characters as well as they can be in a short novella, which is impressive. Often in short books the characterization suffers. I look forward to reading more by this author, even if the work is billed as horror.
The author and publisher gifted me a copy of this book as part of the Love Books Tour in exchange for an honest review. These thoughts are my own and not impacted by this.
About the Author
Tenacity Plys is a nonbinary writer based in Brooklyn, with publications in Hobart, Ethel, Bullshit Lit, Alien Buddha, Word Gathering, and Pif Magazine.
Xe was nominated for a Pushcart in 2022 for a story about a Gen Z artificial intelligence, and for a Best of the Net the same year for an essay about getting carpal tunnel from the queer indie game Hades.
Xe has also had short films screen at over 20 film festivals, including at Anthology Film Archives in New York!
You can find more of xir work at tenacityplys.com.
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