Seventeen-year-old Willow Tomms has just lost her identical twin sister. Her world is irrevocably changed. Not only were they womb mates, they had shared everything in their lives – including their face.
“They belong together, and their sudden cleaving into separateness has made a wrong place in her soul that will never, ever heal.”
Now, the trauma of losing her sister has rendered Willow mute. Her voice is lost along with her sister Laurel. She suffers from debilitating social anxiety. She is loathe to look into mirrors because the face that stares back at her is that of her sister. Sometimes she is unsure who she is. Which is the live sister and which is the dead? Willow thinks she wants to die – to join her sister.
Willow has troublesome and frightening nightmares in which she see’s Laurel, sometimes at Laurel’s funeral. Except in her dreams the people all have bird heads…
Her parents are finding it horrendously difficult as well. Every time they gaze at Willow they are reminded of the daughter they so recently lost…
They hatch a plan to send Willow off to live for a short while at Willow’s Uncle Joe’s house. Hopefully there Willow can heal and Joe will have some company.
Though supportive, loving, and kind, Joe has deep seated troubles of his own – though he is secretive about this to Willow so as not to upset her further…
Willow meets the woman farmer next door who has a teenage foster son named Luca. Luca, who is around Willow’s age, is in trouble with the law. They strike up a strange friendship.
Also… Willow wanders at night barefoot through the nearby forest. It is here that she encounters the scary man who lives alone there.
They call him “The Slaughter Man“.
“They tried to tell us we were different people, but we both knew better. We’re the same. We have one heart between us. And that’s why we’re both broken.”
My first acquaintance with the writing of Cassandra Parkin came about when I read her novel “Underwater Breathing“. The second work of hers I read was “The Winter’s Child“. I was so impressed by both of those that I’ve come to realize that I will endeavor to read everything she has written – as time permits.
The cover of “The Slaughter Man” might lead a prospective reader to think that they were about to read a horror novel or a thriller. They would be incorrect. Although Cassandra Parkin’s books have elements of other genres, they are all well-rendered literary fiction. “The Slaughter Man” is no exception.
This is a novel about the many facets of grief. Sounds like a downer you say? No, that was not the case here. Though I’m a crier, this novel did not make me weep. On reflection, I believe it was because the entire story had a subtle underlying feel of hopefulness.
The surreal nature of Willow’s dreams added much to the overall narrative. Also, the setting was rich in detail and easily imagined.
Memorable due to its fully fleshed-out characters, “The Slaughter Man” tells us what all good literary fiction tells us. It speaks to the human condition and how we are all an amalgam of emotions – despair vying with hope on a daily basis. This novel reaffirms the advice that we all must attempt to find as much joy as we can.
Cassandra Parkin has a Masters degree in English Literature from York University, and has been writing fiction all her life – mostly as Christmas and birthday presents for friends and family. She grew up in Hull, is married with two children, and lives in a small but perfectly-formed village in East Yorkshire. Her first book “New World Fairy Tales” won the 2011 Scott Prize for Short Stories. Her work has been published in numerous magazines and anthologies. “The Summer We All Ran Away” was Cassandra’s debut novel published by Legend Press and nominated for the Amazon Rising Stars 2014. Her next three novels were also published by Legend Press, including “The Winter’s Child” and her fifth novel “Underwater Breathing” was published in May 2018. Follow Cassandra on Twitter @cassandrajaneuk