5 December, 2022

Litstack Rec: The Dead Fish Museum & Suicide Woods

Suicide Woods, by Benjamin Percy

Suicide Woods is the newest book – this one of short stories – from multifaceted author Benjamin Percy. His last novel – The Dark Net – was a horrifying (and gory) tale where modern technology and ancient evil intersect, and I found it truly terrifying. So I was a bit nervous to jump into this book but couldn’t resist because, well, it’s from Ben Percy!

I am glad that Suicide Woods isn’t as gristly as The Dark Net, but to hint that these stories aren’t just as unsettling would do the book a disservice. To a tale, the stories in Suicide Woods are damned creepy! Diversely so. Most unsettling – but in a very spine-tingling, satisfying way.

Some of the stories, such as “Heart of a Bear” (about a bear who tries to be human) and “The Mud Man” (about, well, a man-made of mud) have pretty outlandish premises but are treated with such earnestness that the reader can’t help but buy in – and be rewarded for doing so.  Others, such as “Dial Tone”, “Suspect Zero”, “Writs of Possession”, and to some extent, the titular “Suicide Woods”, are more like loosely, beautifully woven vignettes. There are the creepy (“The Cold Boy’), the poignantly creepy (“The Dummy”), the apocalyptic (“The Balloon”) and the downright suspenseful (“The Uncharted”).

Each story reverberates. Each one – even the ones that at first may seem like disparate scenes – have a strong sense of character at its heart, despite being off-kilter, startling, disquieting. Those characters are beaten down, empty, displaced, and they do not inhabit a state of grace. They are mundane, not noble. They are distressingly real. But Percy’s writing is so deft, so hauntingly beautiful (even when it startles) that you can’t help but be drawn in. You can’t help but keep reading – even if you dread what the next paragraph may bring.

This is Ben Percy at his most adept. Suicide Woods is a collection not to be missed.

—Sharon Browning


  • Lauren Alwan

    Lauren Alwan’s fiction has appeared in the O. Henry Prize Stories, the Southern Review, the Alaska Quarterly Review, StoryQuarterly, in the Bellevue Literary Review. She is the recipient of a First Pages Prize, the Goldenberg Prize for Fiction, and.a citation of Notable in Best American Essays. Her essays have appeared in ZYZZYVA, Catapult, World Literature Today, The Rumpus, The Millions, Writer's Digest, and others. She is a prose editor at the museum of americana, an online literary review. Follow her on Twitter at @lauren_alwan and learn more at www.laurenalwan.com