I suspect that anyone who has been married for some length or in a long-term relationship will find plenty to relate to, perhaps uncomfortably so, in Tim Waggoner's latest novella, The Winter Box.
Waggoner does a beautiful job of taking a twenty-plus year long marriage and casting it at the center of a ghost story. After so long together, Todd and Heather's union has hit a snag. Neither will speak the dreaded D-word, even if both think it, and Todd oftentimes finds himself deliberately putting distance, both physically and emotionally, between he and his wife. Stuck in a cabin during a blizzard, the two are forced to admit the emotions they've kept buried and examine the deep wounds running beneath the scars they've bandaged over in all their years together.
I have to admit, I'm a bit of a sucker for horror stories that put weather extremes, particularly the blustery snow-driven cold, smack dab in the middle of the narrative. There's just something about the winter freeze and thick, icy haze that lends itself particularly well to horror, and I'm a big fan of these types of stories. Even more so when, as Waggoner capably demonstrates, these freaky storms help to thematically echo the human plight.
Todd wants to escape, but can't. The marriage, on the eve of their anniversary, is as cold and barren as the wintry landscape confining them to their cabin. These are people who want but can't have, even if neither quite knows what it is that they want or how to obtain it.
And then the ghosts. Oh yeah, the ghosts. There's an extra bit of fun right there, and Waggoner does just as well making that element as inhospitable and challenging for the couple as he does the elemental conditions they're stuck in. For such a short read at only 50 pages or so, Waggoner packs in a lot of story, and this is a read that just sails by nicely. Or, you know, not so nicely as it were. Marriage is a hard enough job to maintain and survive, and to do so in the worst of conditions...good luck!
I haven't read much of Waggoner's work, but every time I finish one of his stories I'm always left wanting to buy more of his work. The Winter Box is a great reminder of why that is.
[Note: I received a copy of this novella from the DarkFuse Book Club.]