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  • Writer's pictureCandace Nola

06/19/2024 Sonja Ska Reviews "When the Devil"

Emma E. Murray's When the Devil is a masterful sapphic Southern horror novelette that's as haunting as it is beautiful. Emma's words wrap around you and shift the world until Central Park dissolves into the dewy humidity of the South. You can almost feel the stifling heat and the weight of centuries-old misogyny pressing down on you as you turn each page.

Libby, the protagonist, is trapped in a world that's as brutal as it is stagnant. Her existence is one of unrelenting despair, defined by an abusive husband, a cruel grandfather, and a community steeped in ignorance and contempt. Then comes June, an enigmatic stranger who upends Libby's life in a way that's terrifying but liberating. In a setting where religion is wielded as a tool of suppression, Emma's portrayal of Libby's life is both chilling and gut-wrenching. The environment she describes is so vividly oppressive that you can't help but feel a knot in your stomach as you read about Libby's daily struggles.

When the Devil is one of those books that's almost too hard to annotate because every line begs to be read over and absorbed. Seriously, this is my second book by Murray, and I'm still shocked by her ability to make me take a second and think, "fuck, that's a beautiful line." There are only so many sentences I can highlight! But beautiful things are often dangerous, and it doesn't take long for the poetics to become sharp, shedding light on a society that treats women like objects to be used and discarded like trash. Emma unapologetically throws two middle fingers at an unfair, patriarchal world while exploring suppressed desires, trauma, and the painful choices people have to make to live their truth.

When the Devil is an addictive read perfect for anyone who loves horror that focuses a razor-sharp mirror on societal issues and isn't scared to get a little bloody.

Get it here!

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