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DarkEcho Horror
deccoclock by Rick Berry
Book Review

The Pillow Friend
by Lisa Tuttle
ISBN 1-56504-938-1
Borealis/White Wolf
Hardcover/334 pp./$19.95

The first thing that struck me about The Pillow Friend is that it is an honest look at what it was like for a girl growing up in Texas in the 50s and 60s. Perhaps, because I was a girl of roughly the same age growing up in close to the same geographic area, I was lulled into a quiet trust of author Lisa Tuttle, lured into the acceptance of what turns into a surrealistic portrayal of a woman's life and the fantasies that shadow it.

But I doubt it. Most likely her highly believable characterization and setting, her skill as a writer and weaver of haunting, atmospheric plot is the reason.

Agnes Grey, molded by an erratic mother and an exotic aunt, deals with reality through a perceptive intelligence. A mysterious doll becomes her obsession and her salvation in childhood. She is ushered into adolescence by the aunt and two weeks of magic, in which she learns that wishes can indeed come altogether too true. Her awakening sexuality is satisfied by this combination of wishful thinking and, perhaps, delusion. She fantasizes a mature love, then realizes its actuality and we are never quite sure whether her fantasies protect her sanity or are an outgrowth of incipient insanity.

But we accept and are intrigued by it all. When Tuttle suddenly reveals a pivotal reality we understand that we have been locked into a bizarre world that is terrifying. By the end of the story we doubt our own senses.

For fully three-fourths of The Pillow Friend I remained unconvinced that this book met my broad definition of horror--that the intent of the author is to somehow evoke an emotional response of horror from the reader. I felt it was a well-written, psychologically disquieting exploration, but perhaps not horror. Then I realized that this was, indeed, a very frightening book. Frightening not only because of the twists of the book itself, but terrifying in how easily one's own perceptions could be so easily manipulated by the skill of a storyteller. The Pillow Friend is a book that may haunt you for awhile. -- Paula Guran

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Copyright © 2002 Paula Guran. All Rights Reserved.