Midnight Rec: The Keeper by Sarah Langan

Talk about real life horrors. My new job starts up Monday and I do not feel prepared to teach music, drama, and dance to over 300 children, age pre-k to fifth grade. Maybe it wouldn't be that bad if I didn't have to engage them with theme weeks such as "Patriotic" or "Color Olympics". And yes, I'm supposed to match the music to the theme week. The pay's very good, so I can't really complain.
Midnight Rec: The Keeper by Sarah Langan
Yes, a book can be a Midnight Rec. Sarah Langan seems on course to be the next big horror writer. The kind of writer who fills an entire rack of books at the bookstore (like Koontz, King, Hamilton, etc...well, that's it, actually). That's not necessarily a bad thing, either. The Keeper is a Midnight Rec because it feels so familiar in content.
The big thing in horror right now is an unknown force, normally representing a great human failing, beginning to eat away at a small town as the human element boils over without control. It's a struggle sometimes to read the new authors trying to fit that mold.
Not with Langan's debut. Her writing is excellent. It's very descriptive without sacrificing the pace of the narrative. She lets you know everything important about these small town people without stalling. If you learn that someone is self-conscious about their weight, you better believe it will pay off later on.
The Keeper and Langan herself have been favorably compared to Stephen King. Please don't hold that against her (if you aren't inclined to like King writing as King). It really is meant as a compliment. They mean she created a strong horror/suspense novel driven by characters forced to act against something they can't possibly control.
Langan tackles a gigantic situation that grows out like a wild bush. There's a strong root that grounds the story while everything else goes haywire and flies off in different directions. It's controlled chaos. Even though it grows everywhere, it's still a branch of the root. Perhaps the most admirable quality of the novel is the characters.
For the most part, these are awful people. You shouldn't want to read about them. Some of the things they do should make you put the book down. But Langan managed to make these characters human. Sure, one character's a total drunk at the expense of his reputation, work, and relations, but he's the only person willing to help the young woman the town has given up on. And all of these traits fit into the narrative.
The Keeper is a quick read, even though it tops out past 300 pages. There is only one edition available, as her two available novels were released as mass market paperbacks. I was surprised my library carried both books, considering how they normally handle horror. It might be worth borrowing before buying, though seven dollars isn't all that much to be scared while admiring strong prose.

Labels: Midnight Rec