There’s no better time than October to read a really terrifying book, and I’m so glad I started my Halloween month with Ania Ahlborn’s newest horror novel, BROTHER. It far exceeded my quota for suspense, chills, and gore. Let’s get right to the meat of it.
Meet the Morrow family: isolated, troubled, cannibals. (You read that right.) Living on a secluded farm in the back woods of Appalachia, the Morrows have been able to hide their twisted “hobby” from the world, preying on hitchhikers and drifters who won’t be missed. But the adoptive son of the Morrows, Michael, has a problem with his family’s practices, and begins to dream of a better life. When Michael meets Alice, a girl working in a record store in town, he wants nothing more than to run away with her and shed his past. As Michael struggles against his circumstances, his older brother, Rebel, is ready and willing to remind Michael that he will never escape the monster he has become.
Taken at face value, Ahlborn’s story is pure horror: blood, guts, gore, suspense—BROTHER has it all. What impressed me most about this book, however, is the uniquely human element that Ahlborn incorporates with the character of Michael Morrow. In the worst circumstances imaginable, Michael retains enough humanity to feel the weight of his family’s sins. He does participate in his family’s practices, but never by choice. Where his brother Rebel derives great pleasure from hunting other human beings, Michael’s participation is the direct result of a lifetime of abuse by his family. He has been subjected to physical and emotional abuse ever since his adoption by the Morrows, and by the time we meet him, he functions on auto-pilot when his family demands his help. At the same time, his heart breaks for the girls his family kills, and he tries his best to protect his younger sister from the same abuse he has suffered. He is good at his core, trapped in an evil family. Michael’s story is pure tragedy, and my heart seemed to break over and over for him throughout this book.
In a category judged by shock value, BROTHER can stand up to any horror contender I’ve read recently. This book is scary. I almost put it down after the first 60 pages, I had such a visceral reaction to the violence depicted in it. This book is not going to be for everyone, but if you like the horror genre, you absolutely have to read this one. Ahlborn builds a sense of dread throughout BROTHER; it’s quite clear that things are only going to get worse, but you will be totally shocked and disgusted by how exactly the story unfolds. The twist at the end of this book will leave you utterly horrified, and if you’re anything like me, literally crying.
Ania Ahlborn can write horror with the best of them. Add this to your Halloween reading list, grab a blanket, and get sucked into the twisted world of the Morrow family.