I want to say this right of the bat because it’s been bothering me as I write this review: American Elsewhere is a hard book to review without giving away its many plot twists and unexpected surprises. And with it being a newer book I’d hate to spoil it for anyone. All that being said, this review might seem a little less in-depth than ones I’ve done in the past, but I’m going to try my damnedest to get us all through this without too much confusion!
American Elsewhere is part supernatural, part science-fiction, part fantasy novel about a small town, in the middle of a desert, in the middle of a mesa. When Mona Bright inherits a house there, she thinks she’s finally found a place to settle down but Wink isn’t exactly how it appears. Wink is home to a strange pink moon, violent thunderstorms, a forest you shouldn’t enter at night, and a strange observatory where strange stuff happened many years before and may be the cause of all the weird stuff still happening...
The author of American Elsewhere is Robert Jackson Bennett and American Elsewhere is his fourth novel. His first three novels have made huge waves in the world of American gothic/speculative thriller and horror and it’s obvious from his writing style that he’s a master at what he does.
There a tonne of characters throughout this six hundred and sixty-two page epic, but the main one–the character that all other characters are tied to–is Mona Bright. She’s an ex-cop who has spent the last little bit of her life drifting around aimlessly. She’s a really interesting mix of a person. She’s a hard-ass cop before moving to Wink but she had never fired her gun with intent to kill at anyone. She’s jaded and cold, but it’s for a different reason then we, as the readers, and even Mona herself, realizes.
The location of this rather strange novel takes place in Wink. It’s a small town, not marked on any map, and it’s also a place that opens up into a different dimension–a sort of rip in space and time that allows more than one kind of weirdness to enter but not leave the small desert town. I really like the setting of American Elsewhere because having it all set in this seemingly normal but completely unexplainable, inescapable town creates such an encompassing theme of helplessness. It creates a solid tone throughout a novel that’s so completely un-solid in everything else it presents to the reader!
My final thoughts on American Elsewhere are that it’s a really good book with a lot of crossover appeal. There’s inter-dimensional space and time travel, a creepy town filled with creepy people, and it keeps you out of the loop just enough to keep you reading because you need to know what happens next. It’s really weird and is certainly not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but overall, I think a lot of people could pick up this book and enjoy it!