Book Review: Anoka

Anoka book review

Took a chance with this debut collection because it was getting some major hype online, and it did not disappoint! Allow me to add to the hype haha.

SUMMARY: Welcome to Anoka, Minnesota, a small city just outside of the Twin Cities dubbed “The Halloween Capital of the World” since 1937. Here before you lie several tales involving bone collectors, pagan witches, werewolves, skeletal bison, and cloned children. It is up to you to decipher between fact and fiction as the author has woven historical facts into his narratives. With his debut horror collection, Cheyenne & Arapaho author Shane Hawk explores themes of family, grief, loneliness, and identity through the lens of indigenous life.

First of all, I desperately want to read more works by indigenous authors, so when I saw this was an indigenous horror collection I immediately locked in. Not saying that’s the only reason to read it, but it is very cool how the author’s research and insight into indigenous customs, beliefs, and current realities influences all six of the stories here. I also LOVE when authors include story notes on their inspiration/development of the various stories, and so I was excited when I saw Shane Hawk includes those at the back of the collection.

Anoka is a small Minnesotan city that has been called the “Halloween Capital of the World”. All six of the stories are set in this city and focus mainly on members of the Dakota, Ojibwe, and Lakota nations. Despite all being set in the same location, I really enjoyed the variety of horror subgenres represented here (eco-terror, witchcraft, demonic changelings, ancestral ghosts, vicious werewolves, and so on).

Here is a brief look at each of the stories presented in this collection:

“Soilborne” – Extremely short and unsettling story told from the perspective of new parents; eco-horror and shocking twist ending.

“Wounded” – A man is haunted by the death of his sister and, in his descent into pills and booze, finds a strange book in his grandfather’s shed; haunting look at loss and grief with a demonic/Necronomicon spin.

“Orange” – Narrator is suffering from loss and dealing with depression; great voice but more journal entry style and less of an actual story; cool line from the guy who keeps knocked out teeth from fights he wins “I earned those teeth”.

“Imitate” – Something is wrong with Tate, and as his father begins to notice the changes things quickly spiral out of control; super creepy opening and a shocking ending; a demon possession/changeling tale.

“Dead America” – Chaska, an established memoir writer in the native community, is struggling with writer’s block and terrifying spider-filled nightmares when he is suddenly visited by his long-dead grandfather; topics of heritage, identity, and spiritualism; super gross and frightening scenes with spiders infesting one’s body (awful for someone who hates spiders); possibly my favorite from the whole collection though!

“Transfigured” – An intriguing werewolf story with underlying questions about gender and queer identity; also, vicious and violent.

As with pretty much all short story collections, some stories work better than others. I will say that all of them have left a strong impression in my mind though, and weeks later I’m still thinking about them. Author Shane Hawk has a strong and vivid writing voice, and he writes every story in a way that is easy to fall into and enjoy. This is such a great debut, and I cannot wait to read what Hawk writes next!

Overall rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

If you want to learn more about Shane Hawk and his work then check out his website (https://shanehawk.com/) or follow him and Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/shane.hawk/) and on Twitter (https://twitter.com/shanehawkk).

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