Today, we’re pleased to present an excerpt from Jan Stinchcomb‘s new novel Verushka, out now via Journalstone. It’s a novel about family secrets, mysterious presences, and the menacing presence of history. Gwendolyn Kiste called this novel “a devastating tale of the bonds between mother and child as well as the all-too-real terrors of growing up,” which certainly has our interest piqued. Read on for a brief glimpse of this uncanny work.
Something horrible has happened but it did not kill them. It is the worst thing that has ever happened, and it settles into her bones forever. Devon knows it is terrible because her parents, instead of telling her strange little stories about the event, say almost nothing at all. Her mother, especially, has been changed by that night. The flames dance around in Devon’s head, especially when she closes her eyes to go to sleep.
For years the smell of smoke, any smoke, will flood her solar plexus with doom.
She has Bear. Bear is so much more than a toy. He is a baby, a sibling, a king. When she holds him against her chest on the Horrible Night, she hears his voice for the first time. He is older than she expected. He doesn’t use the same words her parents do but she knows what he means. And he knows more than either of her parents. For days she hangs onto him. For days she doesn’t speak. Years later she will remember lying on her side, staring into the distance, making up stories about Bear.
Then, one morning, everyone is eating breakfast together at the new kitchen table and there is sunshine. Devon looks up and experiences time, understands how it moves, slow and fast at once. She will learn to call this life.
The yard at the new house makes up for the sea being so distant. Her parents tell her she can still see the Pacific at the very top of the hill behind the property, but she won’t be able to hear the waves crashing. The yard ends at a fence with peeling white paint. The picket fence, as her parents call it, is slightly higher than her head. Beyond the picket fence, up the hill, is an ocean of trees, green instead of blue, but like the ocean, the color of the woods changes according to the light.
Devon doesn’t fear the woods.