Sometimes, a story will reach out from your kindle and smack you right in the face.* I recently read one just like that, taking me to a time and place that might have been my own family’s story. Days later, I’m still thinking about it, processing it. And Halloween month has only just begun!
Invisible Fences is a long novella by Norman Prentiss that was originally published by Cemetery Dance Magazine. Nathan, his sister Pam and their Mom and Dad (never named) live on a suburban cul-de-sac in the early 70s, and everything is fine. Mom never leaves the house and rarely the couch. Pam is a baseball card shuffling tomboy. Dad tells cautionary takes so scary that Nathan later likens them to imaginary fences that shock you into closely confining your life. So, not really fine, but rather teetering on the edge of disaster. In a very tightly woven story that seems a lot longer for how deeply you learn of this family, Prentiss makes you feel the impending doom with incredible subtlety.
Nathan is a lot like me, especially for being horribly gullible about his father’s well spun stories (my dad’s stories were never scary). My mom was also prone to laying around on the couch, ordering the channel changed by us if we wandered past the tv. I’ve been in that overstuffed, too quiet house. A house with paths through the stuff. Because I’ve experienced a lot of what Prentiss was describing in the story, I knew just how close to truth this story is, and nothing makes a scary story better than cleaving close to truth.
The author is especially skilled at storytelling through multi-leveled allegories, beginning with a rendition of one of Dad’s stories then recounting the highlights of Nathan’s childhood in a first person narrative, making us understand the man he becomes, at least until we realize that maybe Nathan doesn’t tell a story as well as his Dad.
Invisible Fences is the scary tale of a family that loves deeply and carries their scars through their lives, like most of us do. It’s beautifully written, very affecting, and not for the faint of heart. I highly recommend it.
- Invisible Fences – Amazon.com
- Invisible Fences – Cemetery Dances Publications
- Norman Prentiss – Official Website
* Ouch – CFR