Note: I received an ARC copy of The Croning.
It’s rare that I read a book and think to myself, I could never have written this. Call it hubris, pride if you will. It just doesn’t happen.
I could never have written Laird Barron’s The Croning, and I consider that the ultimate compliment.
I’m a naturally optimistic guy, and it shows in my writing. I like keeping hope alive, and so even when I write horror, it tends to have a hopeful tone. The Croning is not hopeful. It is not sunny. It’s dark man, way dark.
Don and Michelle are what I suppose might be the typical academic couple. He’s a geologist who spends most of his time doing boring things with rocks, while Michelle is a globe-trotting anthropologist, searching to the ends of the earth for lost civilizations and ancient, hidden knowledge of world’s beyond our knowing. Michelle’s curiosity threatens to kill the cat, however, as she and Don find themselves in a world of nameless cults that worship the god known by many names, though his friends call him Old Leach.
So that’s the prosaic description. It’s inaccurate. Don’t believe it. In fact, ignore it all together. The book descends into beautifully written insanity from the first page, and it never lets up. Barron writes like Hemmingway might have if he weren’t so boring. (Though I did like For Whom The Bell Tolls, but I digress). The Croning isn’t a novel; it’s an amusement park ride. You read the first sentence and the bottom falls out. Good luck holding on to the end.
But if you survive, you will have experienced something special. A twisting and spiraling descent into madness, The Croning is the kind of book that burrows into your brain and has you jumping at shadows. Laird Barron has managed to create a universe as black and uncaring as any since H.P. Lovecraft. Not for the faint of heart, but if you can bear to step out of the light, The Croning will teach you why all men fear the darkness.