Two novellas in a new collection by Bram Stoker Award-Winning author, Lisa Mannetti.
Lisa Mannetti, Author
Both novellas are set in the 19th century and focus thematically on broken childhoods.
In the first work, Dissolution, Stuart Granville is a would-be medical student from the South who's been sent down for drinking and believes he's heading north to Hyde Park, New York to tutor twin girls. Instead, he discovers that his charges, Abby and Eleanor, not only have never been to school of any kind, but that they are Siamese twins their father, a doctor with grandiose dreams, means to separate surgically, taking advantage of Stuart's expertise and his vulnerability--as well as the supernatural forces at work in the house itself.
In The Sheila Na Gig, Tom Smith is on a ship in steerage and bound for New York from his native Ireland after facing down the the constraints imposed by his family, overcoming the loss of his first love, circumventing his grandmother's wiles and occult knowledge, and trying to save his younger, mentally challenged sister, Delia, from both witchcraft and sexual abuse.
I was 20 when I first came to Hyde Park, New York and fell in love with the child who was both woman and ghost. And God help me, it was my infatuation--or obsession--if you prefer, that spawned both her strange shadow life as my bride and--later, much later--her death.
It was December and the Hudson River was frozen. I hailed from the Carolinas, and after a bleak train ride north, my first, my strongest memory of the region was that solid white mass like a road, of wind blowing and the sight of tight-lipped red faced men hauling blocks of ice on sledges, the horses straining for purchase on the slippery surface.
Their shouts were muffled by the heavy quietfall of snow, even the sound of the train whistling as it left the depot was deadened, and standing on the wooden platform, the chill of the boards penetrating my thin-soled shoes, I thought, I have come to a lonely place. White and cold and deathly still.
Andrew Saunders sent his hired man to meet me. He spotted me right off: I was the only fool not swathed to the eyebrows in heavy wool.
"Mr. Granville," he raised an eyebrow, but there was no question in his tone of voice. He put out a thick gloved hand. "Gabriel Wickstrom," he said, "the doctor asked me to fetch you."
THE SHEILA NA GIG
"They made Brigantia a saint."
Tom looked up from the bench where he was polishing his brother Bob's boots. His grandmother had a wild faraway look in her brown eyes. She was huddled near the fireplace with a bowl of milk and bread in her lap.
"The stupid Irish, they made Brigantia a saint!" Rose Smith said again.
Tom knew she might go on with this--or another equally meaningless phrase--for hours. He skinned the bristle brush against the leather instep and gave out a sigh.
"Tom," Cedric said. "Show some respect for the aged." He rustled in the drift of manuscript pages--most of them halved scraps--that covered his desk. "What does it matter if she prattles a bit? She can't help it."
"Right." He left off shoe blacking and got up. But it did matter, Tom thought, because his father was spouting a lie. Cedric urging tolerance of his grandmother had nothing to do with respect and everything to do with his own motives. Rose was said--not by the family, but by the local farmers and their wives--to be a hag, a witch. Cedric liked to hear her talk because in some way, Tom knew, his father secretly believed she would come out of her mania and empower his failed writing, set right the wreck of his life.