Tales from Blue Springs: The Hatchet Woman

Published By: Elk River Review press

Book Category: Fiction, Horror

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Reviewed by C. L. Rossman

Subtitled “A Southern Gothic Romance,” this is a quirky, funny, yet horrifying little book. It comes out of nowhere and tells the story of Sarah, an orphan girl abused by her keeper and her so-called foster family alike, who finally revolts against their cruelty when her newborn bastard baby is pitched into the well by her owner’s wife. Then she takes her little axe, and like Lizzie Borden, proceeds to give the evildoers 40 whacks—or more. Afterward she disappears into the swamp country along the Elk River near Blue Springs, and lives out there, a legend among the townspeople.

Maimed, burnt and made ugly (her left eyeball hangs onto her cheek and stares downward, giving her a view of the ground), she befriends a talking female bear and then a hook-handed man—and all of this is told with a lyrical haunting quality whose prose flows like the river water itself. You get the feeling that this really is a local legend around Blue Springs, but the author has chosen to write it up so that even the worst of us, abused and outcast, can find love.

The writing is like crystal; the story bounces around from one incident to another, from the way Sarah is now to how she became that way, and finally draws to an unexpectedly gentle end for the inhabitants of Blue Springs, and justice for the deprived.

There, at the very end, you find a new beginning, this time the first chapter of The Hook Man’s story and the promise of things to come.

If the author goes on with this series, it will be worth looking into…she has the lightest touch for allegory, in comparing road-butchered maple trees to the butchered parts in all of us, to reintroducing the legendary bears of Elk River and their strange contacts with humankind. It’s like an urban legend retold to be a healing tale.

Armchair Interviews says: With this book, you’re in for a unique experience.

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