Greetings from the Ether,
As the first part of our S.P. Miskowski review series, we will be taking a look at her Bram Stoker Award-Nominated novel I Wish I Was Like You, which follows an innovative narrative around a young woman named Greta, and her struggles in life, as well as death. We will follow with a review of Miskowski’s collection Strange is the Night, and end with a bang as we interview the extremely talented and ingenious writer herself.
Without further ado, let’s dive in!
“First rule. Never open your story with a corpse. It’s a cliché. If you do it to be ironic, I’ll throw your manuscript in your face.”
Ever read a story or novel that just completely flips your entire perspective on storytelling? A piece that is so unorthodox and uncanny that it leaps from the page with a fluidity and style you hadn’t thought possible? If you haven’t, we suggest picking up a copy of S.P. Miskowski’s I Wish I Was Like You. Not only is this deeply personal tale of the human condition entertaining and breathing with vivid characters and colorful, living descriptions, but it is also one of the most heartbreaking, soul-crushing novels to come out in recent years.
Greta is a protagonist that you’ll love to hate, and hate to love. A character that is animate, textured, jumping from the page and into your thoughts in ways that you may have thought only a best friend or loved one could. Miskowski’s choice to employ second person narrative for many parts of this story was a hard sell at first, especially for Greta’s haunts (no spoilers, so we shan’t dive into this too much), but as the story progressed, and as the events of our heroine’s life took course, it became clear that this story not only worked with such a peculiar choice, it needed it, was even meant to be told this way.
Miskowski’s language is personal, intimate, in a way that most writers may be afraid to indulge with their work. The bravery and sheer wit of the author’s prose choice, and the meticulous description that is never too much, never too little, all lend a hand in realistically (if not at times astonishingly) recreating the 1990s and the atmosphere of Washington State’s culture at the time. Tying historical events into Greta’s journey only solidifies the immersed landscape. There were moments where I could smell the smoke from cigarettes, hear the clanking of stilettos, see the drawing curtain descend, watch the malice and sorrow leak from the characters’ eyes when tragedy after tragedy altered their lives.
S.P. Miskowski writes with a voice that bleeds confidence, a flow and pace that streams along much like the rain that floods the skies of Seattle. But amidst the elegant storytelling is a heart-wrenching and earth-shattering core that will tear the reader’s heart out again and again. I Wish I Was Like You is a study of the human condition and provides an in-depth look at not just how hauntings are done, but most importantly, why. The twists and turns of Greta’s life are difficult to read, due to their anchors in realism and the fact that anyone can relate to her choices to some extent, to her emotions and the reasoning she utilizes in her ill-advised decisions. The nihilistic, unforgiving aspects of our lead are sometimes admirable in their ferocity, and other times difficult to read. Her evolution is one that will surprise readers from the very first page, Miskowski’s meta approach to many aspects of the story, primarily concerning the art of writing, acting as supporting pillars in a unique twist on the horror genre.
I Wish I Was Like You is masterful storytelling, rich with atmosphere and human themes. A mournful, melancholy tale that is unlike any other, the novel will bring you to tears, laughs, empathy, and often frustration that can only stem from damn good writing. By the end of the book, if you believe in such things as ghosts, you may find yourself lacking a fear you once had, and instead feeling an intense sympathy for any who lost themselves along the way, or who are losing themselves right now. Horror is in symbiosis with its characters, needing each other equally to be successful. Miskowski may be one of the few writers working today who completely understands and embraces this fact.
S.P. Miskowski is a three-time Shirley Jackson Award nominee, a 2017 Bram Stoker Award nominee, and the recipient of two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships. Her stories have been published in Supernatural Tales, Black Static, Identity Theory, Strange Aeons, and Eyedolon Magazine as well as in the anthologies Haunted Nights, The Madness of Dr. Caligari, October Dreams 2, Autumn Cthulhu, Darker Companions: Celebrating 50 Years of Ramsey Campbell, Tales from a Talking Board, and Looming Low. Her books are available from Omnium Gatherum Media and JournalStone/Trepidatio.