This is Where We Talk Things Out | Caitlin Marceau
Carrying on with my October Reading list which is dedicated to horror reads. Today, it is a book from that list, This Is Where We Talk Things Out by Caitlin Marceu, which was released by Dark Lit Press on 22 September 2022.
This Is Where We Talk Things out is Caitlin Marceau's debut novella and is set in Canada, where she happens to come from.
As an active member of the Horror Writes and Quebec's writer's Federation, she writes poetry, horror and speculative fiction, as well as publishing journalistic articles and creative non - fiction. She speaks about horror at conventions and her debut collection Palimpsest is available through Ghost Orchid Press, and she is to release another collection of tales, A Blackness Absolute, hopefully at the end of the year.
This Is Where We Talk Things Out by Caitlin
Marceau, author of Palimpsest: A Collection of Contemporary Horror,
follows the gut-wrenching journey of Miller and her estranged mother,
Sylvie, who have always had a tense relationship.
After Miller's father dies, she agrees to a girls' vacation away from the city to reconnect with the only family she has left. Although she’s eager to make things work, Miller can’t help but worry that her mother is seeing their countryside retreat as a fun weekend getaway instead of what it really is: a last-ditch effort to repair their relationship.
Unfortunately, that quickly becomes the least of Miller’s problems.
Sylvie's trapped in the past and if Miller's not careful, she will be too. A cross between Stephen King's Misery and Stephanie Wrobel's Darling Rose Gold, This Is Where We Talk Things Out explores the horror of familial trauma, mother-daughter relationships, and what happens when we don't let go.
Miller is haunted by a monster!
The monster that haunts her has been with her since childhood, following her, haunting her relationships, causing chaos throughout her life. However, now she is older and has a life with Florence. She's happy. In fact, she is going to be married!
But the monster is still there, in the shadows.
To live a happy life, Miller must confront the monster.
But this monster is insidious, carefully breaking through Miller's defences because this monster is no ordinary monster.
The monster is her mother! Sylvie!
The story centres around the main characters of Millar and her mother Sylvie, with a cameo at the beginning of Millard's fiancée, Florence.
From the very start of this book I knew this story, and to be frank, Caitlyn Marceau's novella set in Canada is simply amazing.
When we begin the story, Miller and Florence are having a conversation about her mother. We learn that after many years of estrangement, Miller is attempting to build some bridges with her mother and have some semblance of a relationship with her, as she is getting married and wants someone from her own family to be there. It seems that Sylvie has persuaded her to go on a weekend away in order to facilitate some kind of reconciliation between the two.
Immediately as Sylvie enters the story we get to see the relationship between Miller and her mother. We also get to do some delving into her past and see that Miller's father was a lorry driver who would leave them for days at a time. We also see that Sylvie was controlling and insidiously eroded Miller's self esteem and confidence, and with a pattern of sustained coercive commentary built a wall around Miller. The relationship is a carefully constructed wall of power differentials that lie firmly in favour of her mother's dominance.
I recognised the toxicity of the relationship between Miller and her mother. In fact I have had some of those conversations, particularly the ones at the beginning between Millar and Florence. But not only that I recognise the ones between Millar and her mother.
It's funny, because I have seen and totally relate to the situation with her mother.
Many years later, she gets to recognise that the relationship with her mother is abnormal and toxic. Her mother is totally narcissistic and takes every individual idea and descision that Miller has as a personal attack. As a result, Miller realised that the only way that she can maintain a relationship with Sylvie is not to have one at all.
Caitlyn Marceau carefully builds the tension throughout the book as we gain an insight into the nature of the relationship between the two women. We see and feel (well, I did!) how Miller is constantly walking on eggshells in order to not provoke an outburst from Sylvie, yet maintain boundaries and parameters. We see that the interactions between the two are laced with incidences of micro aggressive outbursts from Sylvie, and recognise that when she is interacting with her daughter there are elements of coercion and narcissism. She truly cannot see anything from anyone else's perception and uses and store each tiny bit of information to use later as a weapon to throw back at Miller. As a result, in order to minimise the toxicity of the situation, Miller has developed a method of avoidance to control the situation.
However, due to this being a normal state of affairs, it offsets the recognition of the delusional fugue that Sylvie is currently in, which leads to devastating results.
Now there is a splitting of thoughts on this book. On the one hand, I absolutely adores this book. The prose is sharp and clipped, and Caitlyn Marceau carefully builds the terror and the tension masterfully, drip feeding little bits of information throughout and eventually stepping back from the events of the story to give the true horrific picture of the situation. When the action hits, it is explosive and shocking and Caitlyn Marceu is able to perfectly demonstrate the cloying and claustrophobic situation that Miller finds herself in! Sylvie, as a character is truly monsterouss in her narcissism and her personality fills the whole page.
However, on the other hand, I recognised this wholly and it made me squirm and feel utterly uncomfortable. Seeing that damaging relationship between the two gave me literal palpitations.
With This is where we talk things out, Caitlyn Marceau has written a compelling tale of toxicity and control.