Book Review : Philip Fracassi - Mother (2016)
I know Julie loved me once. I know it as a fact, like the warmth of sunshine on my skin.
Mother is the OTHER novelette Philip Fracassi published with Dunhams Manor Press in May of this year alongside Altar, which I reviewed earlier this month. It is extremely short (58 pages according to Amazon) and doesn't pull punches about what it is: a gothic novelette with cosmic horror and giallo elements. Mother couldn't be any more different from Altar and I've enjoyed it far more than I did the former. It has become cliché to say man is the most terrifying monster to his own kind, but Philip Fracassi makes this otherwise tired statement pertinent again with Mother, a dark, psychoanalytical look at the life of a contemporary couple living the American Dream. Fracassi gives you a terrifying peek to the other side of theoretical bliss everyone is so foolishly seeking.
So, Mother is the story of Howard, a young intellectual teaching at a community college in West Virginia. His wife Julie is taking her chance at the dream of working from home and making a living from her art. She's a painter and has views on eventually becoming the curator of a local art gallery. They are living the life everybody wants to live, enjoying themselves and one another until Julie begins suffering from isolation. The couple decides then to have a kid to help alleviate Julie's solitude, which is the worst possible idea they could've had. Their lives start coming undone the second life start developing in Julie's belly. If Howard's dreams and aspirations were the only things slipping away it wouldn't be so bad, but they aren't....
Mother is a rather traditional and straight shootin' Gothic story that is oozing with Freudian themes and symbols. The most obvious and important one being Howard and Julie's house, acting as a womb for the couple's (well, especially Julie's) transformation. It is a space where they are shrouded and isolated from society and in connection with something greater than themselves. Julie is also torn between her ego (self), superego (her child) and her id (creative pursuits), creating the need for this transformation to operates inside (and outside) her. Mother is frightening because it turns men's contemporary haven against him. It denaturalizes and defamiliarizes the concept of home and perhaps the most terrifying thing about that is that going back to a hostile home happens to plenty of people every day. It just, you know, never gets THIS hostile.
So, is the really short and intense Mother worth the hour and the four bucks demanded to acquire it. I would say so. A novelette is a complicated object to foster a relationship with, but hear me out: Halloween is coming and if you're happily married or together with someone you really love, you owe it to yourself to read Philip Fracassi's Mother alone, in a dark room and preferably with a glass of wine or bourbon. It is a nuanced and graceful story meant to be read in one sitting and to undermine your sense or self and reality around you. I don't think it would be as efficient otherwise. Mother is meant to tug at your strings rather than shock you and confront you. If you're intrigued about Philip Fracassi's horror writing and don't know where to begin, I highly suggest you start with this one.