John Hardin / @ 6:43 a.m. / Op-Ed

HARDIN: Book Review: Kind Nepenthe, by Matthew V. Brockmeyer


I don’t read a lot. Hell, I wouldn’t read my own work if I could avoid it. I mean, why should I? I already know what I think. For some people, however, reading offers an escape from reality, and many people become addicted to it. Whether it’s online articles and newspapers, romance novels and mysteries or historical biographies and serious non-fiction, reading is all about filling your head with other people’s ideas, and if you do it a lot, pretty soon you know more about what other people think than you know about yourself.

Personally, I prefer to think for myself. I enjoy my own thoughts, and I cultivate them, so I tend to have a lot of them, and they consume a lot of my time. If I’m going to think someone else’s thoughts, I expect them to be at least as good as my own, to tell me something I didn’t already know and make me care about it. That’s a tall order, but I got sucked into a new book of horror fiction recently that really made the grade.

Local author Matthew V Brockmeyer has written a terrific new book titled Kind Nepenthe. I had to look it up, so I’ll save you the trouble. According to Webster: “nepenthe – a drug supposed by the ancient Greeks to cause forgetfulness of sorrow.” It’s a ghost story, set somewhere in Humboldt County. Brockmeyer tells us that his story takes place in the far South-East corner of the county, where Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity counties meet, but the scenery he describes sounds much more like South-West Humboldt County, like maybe Whitethorne or Gopherville, and the store in the story reminds me of the Honeydew General Store.

It’s a fictional world, but the monsters in this book are very real, very SoHum, and they haunt our streets every day. The horrors described in this book really happen, all too frequently in our community. That’s what makes this book so scary.

The story revolves around a couple of young dreadlocked idealists from San Diego. He’s a young certified permaculture designer. She’s a fiercely protective mother of a five-year-old girl. Together, the three of them take a job sharecropping on a monster-sized diesel grow in this remote corner of Humboldt County. They share a dream of living sustainably, off-the-grid, on their own land, and if they can just get through one more cycle that dream could come true. But the grow is haunted.

In pursuit of their dream, the young couple compromise their principles again and again, and each time it draws them deeper into the abyss. Meanwhile, we meet a cast of local characters, living and dead, who inhabit this abyss and call it home. The couple’s boss, “Coyote,” a Deadhead who drives a Lincoln Navigator and eats at McDonald’s. The neighbor, “Diesel,” a mechanic with a drug problem, whose family used to own all of the land in the area, and “DJ,” Diesel’s teenage son and father-to-be, lead a cast of very realistic SoHum characters through a horrific nightmare that consumes them all.

The story sucked me in immediately, and the rich character development kept me engaged until the wrenching and the weeping and the unspeakable horrors take over, and then I just couldn’t stop reading til it was over. Kind Nepenthe is not only engrossing to read, but it reveals a lot about our community, our times and our condition. The ghosts in this story give the characters bad dreams, and play tricks on them, but the horrors that Matthew V Brockmeyer describe in this book really happen here in Southern Humboldt — all too often — and the monsters he describes are our neighbors.

I don’t usually like horror fiction. You didn’t see “scare the shit out of me” in that list of stuff I want a book to do, but this genre proved to be a perfect vehicle for conveying these great character studies. In Kind Nepenthe we see how drugs, greed and the War on Drugs all work together to destroy peoples lives and poison the culture of a community. I think everyone should read Kind Nepenthe by local author Matthew V Brockmeyer, but especially, everyone in SoHum really must read Kind Nepenthe by Matthew V Brockmeyer.

Make time for this SoHum horror story this fall! Read it aloud to your trimmers. They’ll love it! You can find Kind Nepenthe at King Range Books in Garberville, Northtown Books in Arcata, and Eureka Books in Eureka, just in time for Halloween.

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John Hardin writes at Like You’ve Got Something Better to Do.


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