Review of The Haunted Housewives of Allister, Alabama
“Review of The Haunted Housewives of Allister, Alabama by Susan Abel Sullivan with World Weaver Press”
by Jay Wilburn
I had the opportunity to read an advance copy of The Haunted Housewives of Allister, Alabama by Susan Abel Sullivan due to my own connection with World Weaver Press. My own story appears in their anthology, Specter Spectacular. From this publication, I had the opportunity to experience the organized, professional promotion of World Weaver Press. I was also able to see the high quality of work they accept and the caliber of authors they sign. I was confident that this work would be excellent because of the consistency and demand for exceptional work World Weaver Press has demonstrated. Sullivan and her novel Haunted Housewives met these high standards and did not disappoint my faith in this press. Readers should feel good about picking up any work from World Weaver. There are several listed and described at the back of this novel, including more from Sullivan herself, should the reader want to find more work of this quality.
This novel is beautifully southern and sets the stage for redneck gothic. The story is told in first person by the female protagonist. The voice and perspective are delivered flawlessly and in perfect harmony with the style Sullivan invents in this work. She uses the chapter headings to move time in a wonderful flow. Readers should pay attention to where these chapters are leading. Once the reader catches on to the destination, the race of the final chapters becomes even more intense.
Sullivan is the new mistress of humor in horror and in the paranormal. She has proper irreverence for her own setting, characters, and background. She has captured the cultural self-deprecation that is appreciated by few cultures outside of the south-eastern United States referred to properly as The South, a region which is properly capitalized as if it is The Promised Land. No other group is quite as appreciative of being “sent up” and lampooned with as much grace as a southerner. Southerners only bristle when mockery is delivered badly. If a southerner believes that their mocker has been lazy in their insults, then it is an insult indeed. Sullivan pokes fun perfectly in this story as only a true insider in the culture could pull off. She is tone perfect.
References to the American pop culture generally and southern character specifically are placed with precision throughout the novel like beautiful, stepping stones across the entire journey of the story. These references span from the 1970’s through to the present. Readers of all generations will have great fun with these pieces. The beats are played with artistic accuracy. The tempo is satisfying. The description is its own character which is fully developed.
This is cultural satire with three-dimensional characters. In each act, she sets up the future chapters that carry the novel forward naturally through a paranormal adventure like no other. The vivid scenery is alive with the props of life. The characters are Alabama proud. Even other southerners make fun of Alabama. The reader has entered a ghost story in a land where little girls go by two first names and the Piggly Wiggly is an institution. If you don’t understand, you have a lot to learn and Susan Abel Sullivan will be your guide.
She also touches on the rich, gay culture in the South that many don’t realize is a vibrant and active part of the fabric of this region. As with many aspects of the South, the impression is often focused on the negative and there is an assumption of exclusion, but the gay community is an intricate part of the complete tapestry of the southern picture. Sullivan weaves these details and characters into her story in a very organic manner that serves the story and setting.
In this vast landscape, the Velvet Elvis tapestry proves to be the ultimate villain and the most powerful talisman to divide the land and people while testing the metal and faith of all. Even before the evil is revealed, the treasured artifact divides the town and the wider region.
The novel is not a long read, but it is packed full. It builds gradually and then unleashes in a most disturbing climax and a satisfying ending. The experience is well worth the full journey of the story. I try to read quickly when I’m reading for a review. I am a busy man. Sullivan should be ashamed for writing a novel so captivating that I was forced to take my time with each chapter to savor the entire tale. Sullivan and her evil, Elvis mojo had me with every turn of phrase.
There are many important lessons in the story. Trying to hold an Open House with a haunted, Elvis tapestry is almost always a mistake. If your husband starts craving fried, peanut butter and banana sandwiches, watch out. It may already be too late. Beware of white hearses bearing devout Elvis fans. Being tied up is bad. Be on the lookout for classic Cadillacs. There is no such thing as dead sexy. Dead is not sexy. Going into battle with your mother-in-law by your side is a harrowing experience. This is good advice for readers and for life.
The mystery of Elvis conspiracies and sightings creates fertile ground and untapped potential for a rich, paranormal story. Sullivan explores this territory with her expert storytelling.
The haunting begins to divide the family. Cults never help either. Things are amped up and the town becomes a circus when the big day of the tour arrives. The stakes are high and the threats are building all around the coveted, velvet Elvis. The novel isn’t even half over nor half done with the reader.
We find out that the “bad thing” may have already happened. The open mystery becomes “has Elvis left the building?” For Cleo, Beltran has. It turns out more than one thing goes missing. When things come back, it might prove worse than losing them.
Sullivan brings back the missing in a most creepy way. The earlier farce makes the supernatural danger more jarring in the later turn of the novel. It is a good reveal for paranormal fans that have taken the full journey with Sullivan. Their trust in this author and this story are rewarded handsomely.
Cleo Tidwell is forced to decide if she accepts the paranormal or the rational explanation. Her faith and strength are tested. She must decide what she is willing and able to risk in pushing back against the forces lined before her.
The final third of the novel is so engaging that I refuse to let you in on it. It will have to be a treat you earn by becoming a reader of The Haunted Housewives of Allister, Alabama. You’ll thank me for my restraint and secrecy, I’m sure. Prepare for Elvis’s darkest secrets to be revealed.
If you are a southern fan of horror, ghosts, and the paranormal, prepare for the read of your life. If you are outside this territory where Elvis is king, you need to pack your bags for a ghost story unlike any other which I must insist that ya’ll take, sir and ma’am. If you are an Elvis fan, this story is a treasure you have earned through your unearthly devotion. If not, you still owe yourself this exciting ride behind the curtain of a whole, new world.
Once Elvis takes hold of you, you’ll never be the same. When everything falls apart, Mrs. Cleo Tidwell has to take care of business. She will be forced to storm the King’s castle like a blue suede, southern Joan of Arc with her own redneck army.
Who is the King? Your first answer should always be Elvis. Who is the queen? The new queen of the paranormal is none other than Priscilla … I mean, Susan Abel Sullivan. Damn, I need to take that velvet, Elvis tapestry off my wall. I feel weird and I have a taste for fried peanut butter and banana. Do you hear singing? I need to get more sleep. In the meantime, buy and read The Haunted Housewives of Allister, Alabama by Susan Abel Sullivan … thank you … thank you very much.