By Nicole Cushing
Reviewed by Karl Wolff
This book is messed up. I say that with the highest praise. Mr. Suicide by Nicole Cushing is the story of teenage kid living in suburban Louisville, Kentucky. He endures the emotional and psychological abuse from his fundamentalist Christian mother. With an absentee father and a stay-at-home brother, the kid retreats into his mind as a means of escape. One day a voice starts talking to him. The voice calls himself Mr. Suicide and occasionally insists the kid kill himself. He can’t stand living at home, he’s bullied at school, and his grades are slipping. Unfortunately for Mr. Suicide, the kid remains a stubborn target.
What follows is the story of the kid growing older, waiting until he can move out. Written in second person, the story constantly forces you to confront the ugly, jagged realities the kid has to endure. Writing in second person is a risky gambit that pays off. It reminds me a lot of Nic Kelman’s girls: A Paean, also written in second person. The novel perspective doesn’t give the reader distance from the subject, creating a claustrophobic intensity. Nicole Cushing’s novel is like diving into someone’s unalloyed id. Slowly and methodically, the kid goes from being troubled to developing into a full-fledged psychopath.
And he’s not likable. At all. But good writing isn’t about creating likable characters and writing what you know. Yet the kid’s story is compelling. He also has a lot of valuable insights, even if he is an emotionally stunted, violence-prone little bastard. As he reaches rock bottom in the high school pecking order, he becomes acutely aware of what he calls The Ladder. He sees it in people going to work as well. He wants nothing to do with it. This book reads like a demonic love-child of Jean Paul Sartre’s Nausea and Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me. Unlike Dexter Morgan, who followed Harry’s Code and killed bad guys, this kid makes no qualms with his contempt for middle-class proprieties, Christian morality, and basic hygiene.
As the book progresses, it takes on aspects of a quest narrative with Lovecraftian overtones. The kid shucks off the seductions of Mr. Suicide and becomes enamored with The Great Dark Mouth. I won’t spoil the details, but an otherwise garden variety extreme horror novel meanders into the insanity-inducing labyrinth of cosmic horror.
Out of 10/9.0