Dark Night of the Soul is a real gem. E.M Haven has used magical realism to examine suicide and the issues that surround it, and like all the very best indies, it’s a completely unique voice that explores its theme in a brave new way.
Seventeen year old Jayden commits suicide and finds herself in a kind of purgatory where teams of people who have committed suicide protect other suicidal souls from the demons that whisper in their ears and incite them to suicide. Life in this purgatory is a series of battles, if they defeat the demons, the person lives, if they lose, the person succeeds in their quest for death and their soul joins the team. When a new member arrives, the Judgement- a kind of sparkly storm cloud- comes for another. If it’s you it comes for, you’ll meet a statue of yourself and you can either submit to the judgement or fight to keep the demons off your statue/soul. If the judgment takes you, you’ll either move on to the next realm, or you’ll go back to your life. It’s a second chance. It’s difficult to explain and it’s bizarre, but it works.
Havens takes us through a series of events in which Jayden grows as a person.This isn’t a story you can say much about without blowing the intricacies, surprises and beautiful ending. What I can say, though, is that I didn’t want to put it down.
The author skilfully revealed the details of the world and the character’s lives as the story progressed, so that there was always something new to learn and a different angle to take on what we’d already seen. A romance blossoms as well, one with a bitter sweet flavour because it apparently has little chance of long term success. The environment is surreal, taking the group of demon slayers through various terrain and a wide variety of accommodations provided by ‘Him’. Is he God? No one knows. One powerful image is of a Wal-mart in the middle of a desert where the manager uses televisions to show Jayden the options the suicides don’t see due to their tunnel vision. That’s when she learns why they fight to keep the demons from luring people to their death.
Though the subject is suicide, this is not a sad or depressing book; it’s a great tale with layers of meaning. Though it appears as a fantasy, everything is a vehicle for insight making it more precisely metaphysical fiction and magical realism.
It’s simply but effectively written and warrants 5 stars once an issue of formatting has been corrected.
“Is it Heaven.”
“No.” He looked down at me in awe, a smile gracing his burnt and peeling lips. “Better. It’s Wal-mart.”