The House of Erzulie

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews - MYA ALEXICE

Kirsten Imani Ka­sai Shade Moun­tain Press (FE­BRU­ARY) Soft­cover $24.95 (274pp), 978-0-9984634-1-4

Kirsten Imani Ka­sai weaves a spell­bind­ing tale in The House of Erzulie, in­ter­twin­ing el­e­ments of hor­ror and erot­ica ex­pertly. Pur­pose­ful dis­com­fort abounds in this eerie novel that brims with mas­ter­ful, un­canny lan­guage.

Part of the novel takes place in the 1850s, told through en­tic­ing di­ary en­tries and letters. These ex­plore the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Em­i­lie, the daugh­ter of Cre­ole slave­own­ers, and Isi­dore, a bira­cial French man who has ar­ranged to marry her.

What starts as a rel­a­tively un­event­ful romance soon takes a dra­matic turn. Em­i­lie laments the de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of her hus­band’s san­ity as Isi­dore falls deep in lust for a vodou prac­ti­tioner, and deeper into his crum­bling mind. In the cur­rent day, Ly­dia un­rav­els the story of Isi­dore and Em­i­lie through their ar­ti­facts as her own mind starts to de­cay.

The novel’s strong­est as­set is its mag­i­cal, breath­tak­ing writ­ing. Ev­ery page is rife with pow­er­ful metaphors and lyri­cal prose that grab the reader by the throat and don’t let go. Take Ly­dia’s mus­ing on the com­mer­cial­iza­tion of Em­i­lie and Isi­dore’s plan­ta­tion house:

Hon­ey­moon­ers will pay five hun­dred dol­lars a night to make love in re­mod­eled sugar shacks and breathe in the dewy scent of mag­no­lia blos­soms while the bones of the dead molder six feet be­low the ground upon which they re­cline, heart to heart. Or her pin­ing for some­one “to crave me as ship­wrecked sailors pine for home and res­cue, and men lost at sea crave rain­wa­ter … Nar­cotic en­chantress, de­mon lover, suc­cubus. I will be the ad­dic­tion and the rem­edy.”

Kirsten Imani Ka­sai makes the macabre beau­ti­ful. She crafts a story that ex­plores su­per­fi­cial scares while also delv­ing into more com­plex top­ics like gen­er­a­tional trauma and the hor­rors of slav­ery. The House of Erzulie makes you won­der what truly haunts our his­tory, and how, if ever, we can es­cape it.

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