Riddance
"Shelley Jackson is a writer of such extraordinary, uncanny power that the hair on the back of my neck stands up when I encounter her work. What an exhilarating, prickling, blistering book Riddance is! I made myself read it as slowly as possible in order to stay in as long as I could." —Kelly Link, author of Get in Trouble: Stories, finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in FictionEleven-year-old Jane Grandison, tormented by her stutter, sits in the back seat of a car, letter in hand inviting her to live and study at the Sybil Joines Vocational School for Ghost Speakers & Hearing-Mouth Children. Founded in 1890 by Headmistress Sybil Joines, the school—at first glance—is a sanctuary for children seeking to cure their speech impediments. Inspired by her haunted and tragic childhood, the Headmistress has other ideas.Pioneering the field of necrophysics, the Headmistress harnesses the “gift” she and her students possess. Through their stutters, together they have the ability to channel ghostly voices communicating from the land of the dead, a realm the Headmistress herself visits at will. Things change for the school and the Headmistress when a student disappears, attracting attention from parents and police alike.Set in the overlapping worlds of the living and the dead, Shelley Jackson’s Riddance is an illuminated novel told through theoretical writings in necrophysics, the Headmistress’s dispatches from the land of the dead, and Jane’s evolving life as Joines’s new stenographer and central figure in the Vocational School’s mysterious present, as well as its future.

Riddance Details

TitleRiddance
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseOct 15th, 2018
PublisherBlack Balloon Publishing
Rating
GenreHorror, Fiction, Science Fiction, Historical, Historical Fiction, Science Fiction Fantasy, Did Not Finish, Adult

Riddance Review

  • Dustin Kurtz
    January 1, 1970
    Extremely and entirely my shit. Like the X-men but seancepunk. Like Mary Caponegro meets Lovecraft, minus the racism. Like Miss Peregrine's rewritten by Victor LaValle. Like Tom McCarthy's incredible C, but leaning way way into the necro-hermeneutics. Like nothing and nobody else but Shelley Jackson herself.
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  • Dominique
    January 1, 1970
    Wow. I've never read anything like this. It's a historical horror murder mystery and it is the most unexpected, luxuriously crafted, creepy and disturbing piece of literature I've ever read.The story is told mainly through two characters Headmistress Sybil Jones and student-turned-stenographer Jane Grandison. Jones, born into an abusive family and tormented by her father, opens up this school for children like her with a stutter or any other speech impediment. When a student goes missing at the Wow. I've never read anything like this. It's a historical horror murder mystery and it is the most unexpected, luxuriously crafted, creepy and disturbing piece of literature I've ever read.The story is told mainly through two characters Headmistress Sybil Jones and student-turned-stenographer Jane Grandison. Jones, born into an abusive family and tormented by her father, opens up this school for children like her with a stutter or any other speech impediment. When a student goes missing at the Sybil Jones Vocational School, where children are trained as "ghost speakers and hearing-mouth children" because as Jones has discovered, the dead can communicate through the speech impaired, the school is opened to a school inspector who of course needs to check on the welfare of these children. What does, or doesn't happen builds nicely with a nice crossover between the dead and the living.It's told in multiple ways: there's the study of necrophysics and necronauts, with helpful images to guide you as to what the headmistress discovered in her work with and around the dead. She also writes letters to dead authors, like Herman Melville and Mary Shelley, explaining what's happening at her school, and then she also dispatches to her student/stenographer Jane Grandison from the other side, the dead side. I won't share any spoilers but the desire or the quest to document death, or what it means to live, and the contextualizing of absence and presence make this book such an all-encompassing experience to take in. I got swept away in the poetry on these pages, sentiments crafted so beautifully it removed the morbidity and darkness of death and replaced it with, or rather illuminated the functionalities of it."...because we love the world so much we long to lose ourselves in it."It's so weird, and dark, and so so good! And I'll just say, you want to read this with someone else because you'll need to talk about it immediately.
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  • Robin Bonne
    January 1, 1970
    A gothic epistolary novel that was unlike anything I have read. The photographs and diagrams were eerie and added a spooky atmosphere to the documents and letters. This book needs a bigger audience. It was a unique reading experience that gave me unsettling dreams.
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  • Cindy
    January 1, 1970
    A small girl, a stutterer, mistreated by family and schoolmates, is invited to attend a boarding school for those like her. Sybil Joines, the headmistress, believes that stuttering, when properly channeled, is a highly evolved method of communication with the dead. Necrophysics, the study of the relationship between this world and the next, is Joines's raison d'etre. But the periodic disappearances of boarders, and alarming events that occur, cause an existential threat to the school that she ca A small girl, a stutterer, mistreated by family and schoolmates, is invited to attend a boarding school for those like her. Sybil Joines, the headmistress, believes that stuttering, when properly channeled, is a highly evolved method of communication with the dead. Necrophysics, the study of the relationship between this world and the next, is Joines's raison d'etre. But the periodic disappearances of boarders, and alarming events that occur, cause an existential threat to the school that she cannot tolerate. The history of the school is told from multiple points of view that bear witness to the grotesque school. This is a fully realized world, dark and challenging, with three-dimensional characters and accompanying illuminations and artifacts so realistic that you soon forget this is fiction. Riddance is an astounding feat of imagination.
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  • Zachary
    January 1, 1970
    Like a voice from another world... that pulls you into that world, Riddance is hypnotizing. You won't want to wake up.
  • Amanda
    January 1, 1970
    The idea intrigued me, but the execution was not my cup of tea. Having to stop on every page to look up the meaning of a word bogged down the flow of the narrative, and storytelling was sacrificed for pseudoscience (think George Lucas's love of fancy digital effects and the effect it had on the quality of the prequels). A chore to slog through for me, but might be a perfect fit for the right kind of reader.I received a digital ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss+.
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  • Emily
    January 1, 1970
    This story starts with an "editor" in the present day, who comes across the Sybil Joines Vocational School for Ghost Speakers & Hearing-Mouth Children (SJVS) through a newspaper clipping inside a book at a rare/used bookstore, then becomes curious about said school, starts researching it, and ends up finding references to it everywhere (including an online review of a pair of loafers). The subject of the newspaper clipping is a murder at SJVS, and that mystery becomes the central focus of th This story starts with an "editor" in the present day, who comes across the Sybil Joines Vocational School for Ghost Speakers & Hearing-Mouth Children (SJVS) through a newspaper clipping inside a book at a rare/used bookstore, then becomes curious about said school, starts researching it, and ends up finding references to it everywhere (including an online review of a pair of loafers). The subject of the newspaper clipping is a murder at SJVS, and that mystery becomes the central focus of the remainder of the novel. Kind of.I've seen Riddance compared to the Miss Peregrine's series, and while I definitely acknowledge some similarities, mainly the "school for children who are different, run by an eccentric woman who becomes something of a mother figure," there's SO much more than that going on here.Forget straightforward linear narrative. We receive the story of SJVS, Sybil Joines herself, the stenographer (a student at the school, Jane Grandison), the land of the dead, and the murder alluded to in the "Editor's Introduction" via alternating sections:• "The Final Dispatch," dictated by Sybil Joines from the land of the dead and recorded by Grandison• "The Stenographer's Story," which gives a bit of Grandison's own childhood background and experience at SJVS• Various readings, including snippets from "A Visitor's Observations" about the school and faux-scientific explanations of necrophysics, and• "Letters to Dead Authors," in which Sybil Joines writes to Herman Melville, Charlotte Bronte, Edgar Allan Poe, and othersThe continual rotation between the above perspectives, periodically interspersed with photos, diagrams, and "historical documents," creates a very slowly-forming picture of the school, its history and inhabitants, and the murder in question. There are also a few inserted "editor's notes," which add to the feeling that SJVS was a real place and this murder a real crime. I thought the structure was an inventive and effective choice on Jackson's part, and I really enjoyed it.I can't get over how well thought out this novel was. On top of being entertaining and spooky, which is pretty much always what I want from an autumn read, it has some fun "science" that made my brain hurt after a while (the dead, versus the dead dead, and the dead dead dead), an extremely unsettling atmosphere, and a lot of ideas to stew over (the nature of the "self," the meaning of (self-)erasure, and the white-washing of history, just to name a few). I feel like this is one that merits an immediate re-read, so you can experience the beginning with the increased understanding you ended with. If you're into all things dreary, uncanny, and supernatural, I definitely recommend it.
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  • Emily
    January 1, 1970
    Amazing concept, but this format is a struggle for me. Riddance is not a bad book in the slightest, but I'm not the right reader.
  • Michelle
    January 1, 1970
    I really wanted to love this book. Instead I skimmed to even finish it. Maybe others will enjoy it more.
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