Dawn, Amber. “Sodom Road Exit”, Arsenal Pulp, 2018
“Desire and Dread”
In “Sodom Road Exit”, we meet Starla Mia Martin, a 23-year old intelligent and well-read young woman who has returned to her hometown of Crystal Beach, Ontario to live with her mother. She has been living in Toronto and enjoying life but now she has to live with a women with whom she does not get along.
Crystal Beach had once been home to a long-running amusement park but now that it is gone, it has become a ghost town. Because she had exhausted all of her financial resources after dropping out of college, Starla Mia must return to live with her overbearing mother in this community that has fallen on hard times. Suddenly, Starla Mia experiences strange occurrences—- sounds at night that she cannot explain and visions of places that pip into her peripheral vision. She is being haunted by unresolved traumas that haunt Crystal Beach. What makes this even stranger is that instead of being afraid of this, Starla is sexually aroused and feels lust and “queer desire”. Instead of running from the horror, she draws it closer in thus bringing some very odd characters to her and they all look for answers in the world that they are not a part of.
This is a queer horror-thriller filled with desire and dread and an unforgettable paranormal character as well. It is an important book for those trying to heal from childhood trauma. Just as Starla was possessed by queer love, I was possessed by this novel and actually read it all in one sitting because I simply could not allow myself to stop reading.
Now back home, Starla begins working as the night shift manager at The Point, a campground and RV park. Now this kind of job does not usually have excitement, but Starla has extraordinary experiences while at work. One would imagine that this job might entail some pickup around the grounds and a little downtime, but Starla’s experience is much more extraordinary. From the very first day, there are strange happenings at The Point. The ghost of a girl who died in Crystal Beach has a special interest in Starla and begins communicating with her from inside her head. Starla realizes that as she becomes closer to those who live at The Point, the ghost’s pull on her gets stronger and a strange sexual bond that the two have could hurt Starla in a way that those around her can’t understand or see.
We can only assume that Starla is queer as well as not well mentally. Writer Amber Dawn realistically portrays what Starla is going through. There are times when she can cope and from what I understand, writing about mental illness is very difficult because of its different forms and manifestations. We also have been told that PTSD and irregular moods can be difficult to manage on their own.
Amber Dawn writes with wonderful compassion and introduces us to an unforgettable cast of characters that are unforgettable. We watch Starla’s character evolve while she works at The Point. Surprisingly, I felt good when I finished the novel and understood that I had read something very special. It is really difficult to write about “Sodom Road Exit” without giving away a spoiler and that is why I have not really gone into the plot. The complex cast of realistic characters, share relationships and deal with very real problems. At the heart of those relationships is “a parasitic queer ghost with control issues, a still raging sex drive, a wicked sense of humor, and anger management issues.”
It is impossible not to love this book— the prose is gorgeous, Amber Dawn is quite a storyteller and it crosses many genres. It is not just a read, it is an experience.
On a personal note: I have reviewed books published by Arsenal Pulp for the last twelve years. However, during the last two years, my requests for review copies have been ignored. Hopefully this review will make their office staff (I hesitate to call names) realize that I am still alive and still writing and there are Arsenal Pulp titles that I would have loved and even still would love to review.