Wakening the Crow by Stephen Gregory
A dark story dedicated to the lord of the macabre, Edgar Allan Poe. A novel of mystery, delusions, and sorrow.
Oliver Gooch, a lazy husband and father, uses the settlement money from his daughter's accident to fund his dreams as a disheveled, burdened writer and bookstore owner. Just as the future becomes brighter, his life is touched by a relic: a tooth of the young Edgar Allan Poe. A 'gift' for his new shop.
A curse, a way to attract customers, or just a chipped fragment of bone? It doesn't matter; as with every horror story of Poe's, the horror does not truly lay in the dangers that befall the character, but what psychological suffering he endures as a result.
I found this book in the Horror section of a bookstore, but I certainly would not consider it to be horror. Rather a tale fighting on the cusp of realism, rooted in the practical tragedies that could befall any of us, with a touch of dark fantasy reminiscent of Poe's stories.
Dark romanticism isn't always about love, or the loss of it. As Poe has shown us, it is also about the love-hate we feel towards emotions like guilt, self-pity, and the inner turmoil of failing to meet our own expectations. Throw these emotions in with a failing marriage, an amateur writer, and an undead crow, and yes, you have yourself quite the story.
I approached this book expecting to be scared, thinking of those days as child, curled up in my bunkbed, reading Scary Stories to Keep You Up at Night, but a more adult-themed version. It was not that in the slightest, and I am glad for that. Gregory offered something much more satisfying, entertaining in its own gruesome and pitiful way, with a conclusion that left the same feelings which The Black Cat, and Masque of the Red Death shared.
Would Poe be 'proud' as other reviewers have said? Gods, no! Poe would smirk to himself. "Nice try," he might mutter. But, to elicit that response from a writer so unrelentingly critical, then certainly, you have accomplished something worth remembering.