Mums by Joe Hill
I have been working my way through Joe Hill’s anthology Full Throttle and to be honest its been a mixed bag, which is a real disappointment. I love most of Hill’s work, but this collection has been very meh. But I’m this far in, so I’m going to finish it out at this point. Here is review of the next story in the series, Mums.
The story follows a yang boy named Jack, and Jack is not in a good situation. Unlike most boys his age, he is growing up in commune of anti-government militia members. They are isolated in the country but his mother tries to get him out. His mother is caught, killed and is only buried at all because Jack pleads for it happen. While traveling, a new lady acting as his caretaker, encourages to buy some flowers to grow for his mother. He agrees hoping it would make him feel better. He buys some flowers called Mums.
He goes home and plants the flowers. Keeping them alive helps him cope for his mother’s loss. But he also tormented by his family, and trusts them less and less. As young as he is he knows everything is all wrong. Then the mums grow underground into his mother’s grave. And then some interesting this happen leading to an interesting climax.
So the good? This explores some interesting themes. The shock of his mother’s death alongside the sublet realization his entire family are home grown terrorists hit Jack hard. He’s in a dilemma that is both scary and fascinating. In fact, when the supernatural elements begin to show up, the reader is relieved because somehow the spookiness could make things better for poor Jack. Speaking of which, the “supernatural” elements are weaved through this well with great detail.
The bad? The story has an ominous climax, and it is never clear whether what happens is because the mums were causing everything to happen or if Jack snapped. I personally want to believe Jack isn't completely broken at the end of this tale, but this tale does not confirm if that is the case for the reader. Some people may love this ambiguity, but I think many won't
Overall, this is a unique tale. It mixes the supernatural into the real life horror of a cult like militia group. It’s a good story. It’s worth the read. But it’s nowhere near Hill’s best work. Give it a read if you ever stumble across it.
4 smoothies out of Five.
Overall Rating: A Good Mix of Real Life and Supernatural Horror