The Book Maven’s Literary Advent Calendar 2014, Day Six

December 7th, 2014 | Filed under Books, Reading, The Book Maven's Literary Advent Calendar

This year for Advent I skipped giving my beloved spouse chocolate and went straight for the thing he likes even more (which is saying something; he has never met a chocolate dessert he didn’t like): Gin. Somehow, while doing research for a book-development project I’m working on, I found a link to this awesome website and discovered that they make “Ginvent Calendars.” (For those of you not as enamored of the aromatic stuff as Mr. Bethanne is, they also offer seasonal calendars filled with scotch, vodka, tequila, and moreā€¦)

Each day in December is represented by a little door, just like in more traditional Advent calendars, and behind each one is a little bottle filled with a dram of fine gin, labeled and stoppered with wax. Quite elegant, really, and quite serendipitous. One of this week’s choices delighted us both so much that we’ve vowed to buy a bottle, whereas last night’s selection was completely boring.

That serendipity goes for books, too, especially those you request from friends. You may adore someone in person or online–but will you adore her writing? I am slow and cautious about saying “Please send me a copy of your book” for that very reason. (I’m more likely to accept when someone asks me, because I am nothing if not a people pleaser, and yes, I’m trying to shed my skin.)

But a few months back, I decided to take the risk when I saw that two of my favorite Twitter friends and authors had collaborated on a novel.

“The End of the Sentence: A Novel” by Maria Dahvana Headley and Kat Howard

The_End_of_the_Sentence_by_Maria_Dahvana_Headley_and_Kat_HowardHow to succinctly describe this elegant, eerie, deeply meaningful book? (Or did I just do so?) Dahvana Headley and Howard collaborate so seamlessly that after less than a page I’d completely forgotten there was one author, let alone two: The voice of this mythologically tinged ghostly murder mystery captures the reader immediately, and the rest is less a matter of that voice not letting you go than you holding on for dear life.

The beating heart of this slim novel is Dusha Chuchonnyhoof, who is a ghost (remember, a ghost isn’t the term for just any apparition; it technically means a departed soul whose business with the living isn’t finished). Chuchonnyhoof resides in a house whose newest occupant, Malcolm Mays, is attempting to escape past sins. Soon Mays finds that Chuchonnyhoof’s initial welcome (which includes all sorts of delicious, perfectly cooked treats in the icebox) conceals a strange, macabre task he wishes Mays to complete for him.

Dahvana Headley and Howard have some epic literary chops between them; the former may be best known for her stunt memoir The Year of Yes, but she’s co-edited with Neil Gaiman and won some impressive accolades. Howard, a “recovering academic” whose fiction has been performed on NPR, is also a competitive fencer. Together, they’ve created a book that raises as many questions as it answers–and in this case, that’s not a criticism in the slightest. The women effortlessly dart back and forth between different forms and layers of world mythologies, entwining trickster tales, creation stories, and angry gods into a rich stew. By the time Mays understands exactly what it is his shadowy correspondent really wants, he’s so embroiled in the story that he can’t exit–he has to wait for the end of his own sentence.

Perhaps the most amazing aspect of the book is that you truly don’t need to know or understand a thing about any of the myths, superstitions, and ideas that the authors bring up; although the reader is plunged headfirst into the action, symbolism is revealed with perfect pacing. Everyone reaches the end of this sentence as they should. Maria Dahvana Headley and Kat Howard have pulled off a dark, delicious feat, and they offer a story that you can easily read in one sitting–good thing, too. You will not want to fall asleep at any point while devouring this modern yet timeless work of suspense and horror.

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