To avoid spoilers, I am going to be brief on the plot. The above mentioned Carla is unceremoniously advised of the death of her dad, the only family member she felt close to. Her malignant mother (Abby) and creepy brother (Matty) pick her up in Philadelphia and take her on a most uncomfortable four hour drive to the mountains. The car stinks, and during this ride we meet Abby, a purely dysfunctional mom, who used to seduce her daughter's boyfriends. Also we learn Abby has spells, known to Carla as "the worsening." What is "the worsening"? Ms. Stanton defines it for us through her prose throughout the novel. When the last pages of this work have been read, you'll know what it is. Surfeit to say, picture it is something not right that dwells in our subconscious, and perhaps lives inside of all of us. Most of us keep it locked up, but in some people, it escapes and overtakes. Forgive this cryptic explanation, read the book for the full story on this dysfunction.
During this week-end, the family will stay at Abby's double-wide in the mountains. Carla will then revisit some very uncomfortable, perhaps terrifying, episodes of her past. A pall of dread and doom permeate the mountain residence, and the maliciousness directed at Carla will make your skin crawl. Though not monsters in the classic sense, Abby and Matty emerge as total creeps, completely unnerving our protagonist. Any attempt to remember her dad fondly is interrupted by her family's almost demonic demeanor and social skills. Even when her beloved brother, Derek arrives, Ms. Stanton doesn't provide Carla an oasis of sanity and safety...you'll see. Then, just as you believe you are reading a psychological horror story, which you are, Ms. Stanton masterfully transcends it to a blood-curdling gory horror tale as well. "The Worsening" works magnificently weaving the psychological and horror together. As we follow Carla through the plot, we are on edge. Something dark is heading her way, and we don't know what. No matter how much we yell, "Run, get away!", she can't. Eventually she will come face to face with the most unimaginable evils a horror writer can concoct.
Ms. Stanton's "The Worsening" is available on Amazon.com. We forgive many writers for using familiar plot devices, especially if they tell a good story. Ms. Stanton tells a great horror story, avoiding cliche plot devices. What keeps the reader so unsettled is that there is no familiar territory to take comfort in. As uncomfortable and vulnerable Carla is in these pages, so is the reader, Perhaps this is how this great horror author built empathy between us and her protagonist. If you want shocking horror, read "The Worsening," by Olivia Stanton.