WOW. Petrified Women was a seriously pleasant surprise that I absolutely devoured, y’all. This novella is delightfully creepy and takes some seriously good twists.
Harley has a surprise in store for her boyfriend, Aiden. Aiden’s been a joker ever since they started dating, but his surprises tend to be scarier – as marked by the list of top scares on his fridge (including a fake pregnancy, and a stint pretending to be bigfoot). But she’s going to get him this time.
But waiting in the closet for him to arrive, Harper sees something she shouldn’t have. Aiden at his worst might be a bit more than Harley had bargained for.
I’m keeping this description ominous and vague on purpose, as I don’t want to spoil anything, but I hope it draws you in all the same. The description for sure drew me in, when Jeremy Ray himself asked if I’d like to take a look at this ~masterpiece~. I’m not usually inclined to do that sort of thing if it’s not up my alley, but Petrified Women‘s description hooked me instantly!
I feel like we need to acknowledge the gaslighting here. This book focuses on domestic violence and sexual assault. It’s riddled with emotional manipulation, and the remnants of having been emotionally manipulated. And while it’s terribly disturbing to read, Ray captures it perfectly and transfers that self doubt, that confusion, and that deep sense of dread to his readers. I, as the reader, felt gaslit by Aiden. And I think that’s an impressive feat as a writer – it totally added to the horror that I couldn’t tell which way was up. My stomach was tense with every turn of the story.
Harley’s story resonated with me not because of personal experiences but because of the experiences of my friends. The gaslighting, abuse, and that idyllic version of the person you’re with are disturbing to see the other side of. The psychological horror of this novel is commendable but so terribly realistic in the way Harley’s brain functions and works around her own experiences, to rewrite her present. I encourage you to reader’s Jeremy’s author’s note when you start this novella, if this is not something you can relate to on your own.
The only thing I didn’t absolutely love was the very bizarre fantasy turn this book took at the end – and not because it was bad, actually. I think it’s perfectly befitting to the story. I just totally wasn’t expecting it. Nothing in the description gave me the indication that this book was anything other than grounded in reality, but I think that turn into the fantasy realm helped to more symbolically illustrate the point of Ray’s story. Again, I don’t wish to spoil anything, but there’s power in survivors banding together; speaking up and standing against when you can is pivotal; and don’t underestimate women.
I’m incredibly grateful that Jeremy reached out to let me know that his story sounded like something I’d enjoy, as it totally was. I highly recommend it if you’re looking for a creepy story one rainy afternoon. A copy of Petrified Women was provided to me in exchange for an honest review, and you can get a copy of your own here. Have a wonderful week, friends. 🙂