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Mythic Fiction Review    



Mariah of the Spirits and Other Southern Ghost Stories
by Sherry Austin
Overmountain Press, 2002
Trade paper, $14.95 (181 pages)
ISBN: 1-57072-231-5
  Sherry Austin is drawn to the strange and gothic themes in her writing and is part of a revival of the Victorian ghost story tradition. Her haunting stories will bring to mind the writing of Rod Sterling, who used his series Twilight Zone to ponder issues of the day. Austin uses elements of Southern culture to create her supernatural scenes.

The title story, "Mariah of the Spirits," is the a traditional hitchhiker theme using a runaway slave trying to get to her son before he is killed.

"Birds of Silent Flight" is the sad tale of the ghost of Miss Emmaline Elwood on a Cape Fear River rice plantation. A plain girl, she befriends a slave boy named Caleb. As she comes to age, she draws the attention of the son of a cotton plantation, who asks for her hand in marriage. In her sexual awakening, Emmaline goes to Caleb is becomes heavy with his child. Her suitor rejects her, and her father kills Caleb. Emmaline raises her daughter Lemon. As the Civil War comes, a series of events bring Emmaline to a fateful end.

Not all ghost stories are scary as "The Dressmaker's Mannequin" proves. With a touch of whimsy and humor, the story follows a wooden mannequin with feelings for her male dressmaker. The mannequin was created for a young woman at a plantation, and after several other owners becomes the possession of a New Orleans shopkeeper. It is an act of jealousy and rage that brings this story to its end.

Each of the fourteen stories creates moods and ideas to brood over. This is a great escape for a dark, stormy night. Sherry Austin is an author to watch.

For portions of Mariah of the Spirits she was awarded an Artist Fellowship for Literature from the North Carolina Arts Council, an agency funded by the National Endowment for the Arts.

A native of Charlotte, North Carolina, Sherry Austin now makes her home in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Joyce Dixon
Southern Scribe Reviews


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