The horror genre is vast and catches comedy in its net. Gerri Gray’s The Amnesia Girl is a shining example of top-class comedy-horror.
“Filled with copious amounts of black humor, Gerri R. Gray’s first published novel is an offbeat adventure story that could be described as One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest meets Thelma and Louise.
Flashback to 1974. Farika is a lovely young woman who wakes up one day to find herself a patient in a bizarre New York City psychiatric asylum. She has no idea who she is, and possesses no memories of where she came from nor how she got there.
Fearing for her life after being attacked by a berserk girl with over one hundred personalities and a vicious nurse with sadistic intentions, the frightened amnesiac teams up with an audacious lesbian with a comically unbalanced mind, and together they attempt a daring escape.
But little do they know that a long strange journey into an even more insane world filled with a multitude of perilous predicaments and off-kilter individuals waiting for them on the outside. Farika’s weird reality crumbles when she finally discovers who, and what, she really is!”
The Amnesia Girl is a witty, vivid, off the wall read that grips the reader from the first. The narration is so good, two paragraphs in and I had to set my kindle aside and pace the floor, waiting for my excitement to settle. An early reference to Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar sets the tone, although Gray’s rendition is the earlier work’s alter ego, the antidote to all the suffering and injustice mental patients are forced to endure. A whacky and terrifying array of mental patients in the asylum is trumped by the even whackier and sinister psychiatric nurse and doctor.
Farika has no memory of who she is:
“But whatever memories her brain might have retained of her now-forgotten past were as grayish-white opaque as the smokestack clouds that rose high into the air with the promise of forming into something substantial, only to dissipate into nothingness.”
To my mind, such writing is gold, pure gold.
Thankfully, Farika and her friend, Mara, manage to escape, and they embark on a wild ride from New York to San Francisco, encountering many bizarre characters along the way, from prostitutes to religious fruit loops to radical extremists; everyone’s a nut job, no one can be trusted and the macabre is ever present. At times I was thinking Tarantino or the Coen brothers, others of Rocky Horror, and yes of course, Thelma and Louise. Above all, Gray has captured a slice of vintage USA with a hilarity that charms and a narration that glows. There are plenty of twists and turns as the plot drives forward, heading towards a satisfying ending when things come together and wrap themselves up in a tight knot.
I don’t want to have to defend horror, but I suspect if you want to find out where all the literary fiction authors are hanging out after being rejected time and again by publishers, it’s leaning against a graffitied wall of some dark alley, conjuring dread and revulsion. The Amnesia Girl is another demonstration of the places women writers of horror take the genre. An absolute delight!