THE HOWLING by Gary Brandner earned 3.5 hair-raising stars from me, yet, falls short of a classic.
Karyn Beatty is about to celebrate her first-year wedding anniversary with husband Roy. They are living in Los Angeles within a safe and quiet condominium community. Both she and Roy have jobs they love, a dog they cherish. And to make their anniversary extra-special, she plans to tell him she is pregnant. Yes, Karyn’s adult life is developing perfectly.
She is raped that very day by the condominium’s maintenance man and her future and dreams go from bright to bleak.
To help Karyn, her therapist recommends leaving the city and finding solitude and rest in the country. Roy finds a home to rent, two miles from the dying town of Drago—nestled in the valley of the Tehachapi Mountains. The area is so isolated that the only phone is in town and coming from the city, Karyn doesn’t drive.
Karyn’s nightmare is about to mushroom (as if it isn’t already terrible enough). Because every night, she hears howling. And the howls keep getting closer. Roy doesn’t share in her worries. And the few people living in Drago aren’t talking.
Vulnerable and more alone than ever, will Karyn figure out what strange creature is howling in the woods? Will she survive her mysterious getaway as it closes in around her?
• The story has some very nice atmospheric moments. For example: “Branches seemed to whip out and clutch at her. Behind her, moving silently through the trees, something followed.” Add the mountains, cold air, moonlight, and occasional mist, and the tension nicely ramps up!
• The final battle is awesome, nail-biting, and fast-paced. Loved it 🙂 !
• You know how some books are timeless classics? Okay, THE HOWLING is not one of them! It was published in 1977 and reflects the norms of the time, which isn’t the author’s fault. However, THANK GOODNESS times have changed!!! Because in THE HOWLING, what do you do after a woman gets raped? Isolate her and give her pills to ease the pain. Ugh! In addition, from a literary aspect, I did not appreciate reading the details of the rape. Even though authors are urged to “show, don’t tell,” I don’t think that holds true with rape, UNLESS the rapist is integral to the story, which here, he is not (he is never mentioned again).
• Roy Beatty is the WORST HUSBAND/PARTNER EVER. There, I said it and feel better 🙂 ! The poor guy isn’t getting satisfied because his raped wife, who had a miscarriage from the violence, isn’t putting out. And when she does (for his sake), she clearly isn’t into it. So of course, he has to do something about that. This is how he rationalizes his cheating: “Even so, if sex were better for him and Karyn, it would never have happened.” Today, that’s called blaming the victim. He also adds: “Feeling guilty would do no one any good. He had never claimed to be a saint.” Well, alrighty then.
• ANIMAL LOVERS BEWARE: In their isolated mountain home, the Beatty’s let their dog Lady outside at night. And then they forget she’s outside and they go to bed. REALLY? They didn’t notice Lady was missing until she wasn’t begging for breakfast. Sorry, that was never a norm in the 1970s. That’s just negligence. Jeez. And we, the readers, can easily guess how that worked out in a book full of ravenous werewolves.
I am trying to be understanding that the author was writing in a different time. A lot has changed in 40 years. And I get that some characters in stories simply aren’t likable at any level. Guess I wanted to latch onto at least one character and that really didn’t happen, though the book did have some Happy Howling moments, especially during the final scene!