My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Erin Greene’s relationship with her partner could be better, yet despite the many arguments and physical altercations, she’s determined to make it work with the father of her unborn child. Going out on a drive with the intention of quality time to themselves, Erin and Phil are left stranded in a snowstorm, yet the cold’s not the only thing to worry about. It’s possible they just might be surrounded by wolves.
(WARNING: This review contains minor spoilers.)
Despite being just over a hundred pages, this debut novella established a long-lasting impression with its compelling survival aspects; they made me truly invested in the story, and I was reminded just how much I love the concept of one character alone and struggling against the harsh forces of nature. Erin’s predicament turned from bad to worse, and a certain graphic scene in particular, where she had to self-doctor herself, had me simultaneously cringing in discomfort and leaning forward in fascination. It’s something I won’t forget anytime soon, and it’s a testament to O’Connor’s ability. Seriously, the entirety of the middle segment – the claustrophobic confines of the car, and the blizzard outside – was five-star content. It’s just a shame some odds and ends later on didn’t sit comfortably with me.
The end portion is where I felt it needed some work. A character appearance came out of nowhere, completely without explanation. I found no relevance nor reason why it had to be that specific person, and even though I could speculate until the cows come home, that vagueness left a black hole that tainted my experience. The supernatural elements also played a minimal role, to the extent they were largely insignificant. Don’t get me wrong, I have a love for werewolves that goes back to my childhood, but in this case they added nothing. The horror, the edge of your seat tension, came before the werewolf reveal, so I was left asking why include them at all?
O’Connor’s writing appealed to me a great deal – entwined with the more straight-forward style was attractive prose and poetic flourishes. The opening sentence was enough to pique my interest and draw me in. He was also able to sufficiently portray a woman’s thought process and turmoil whilst embroiled in an abusive relationship; Erin’s many excuses when it came to Phil were scary in how accurately they related to the real world.
In conclusion: The Mongrel read as two different books melded together; one was the thrilling tale of a pregnant woman trying to survive, and the other was a werewolf conspiracy. I felt totally engaged up until the last chapters, when the overall tone changed. I want to read more from this author, though, because I sincerely believe in his potential.
If she let it, her renewed sense of hope could easily dissipate, and she knew the only way to prevent that was to fill her heart with fire–a fire that would fuel her to take hold of life and allow her to rise up out of her dilemma.
© Red Lace 2019