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Waking Up Naked in Strange Places by Julie McGalliard
Cover Artist: Mark J. Ferrari
Review by Gayle Surrette
Per Aspera Press Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781941662090
Date: 02 April 2015

Links: Author's Website / Publisher's Book Page / Show Official Info /

I've read a lot of werewolf stories, so many in fact that they sometimes blur together. The plots and characters change but the basic mechanics remain consistent and things move along in predictable ways. Somehow, Julie McGalliard managed to come up with something new in the way of young person learning that they become a werewolf and having to learn to live with that knowledge.

Self-Abnegation in the Service of the Lord, Abnegation for short, has grown up in New Harmony with her brothers and sisters. Her father, Father Wisdom, has dedicated his life to the Lord and maintains his family in isolation so that they be free of the taint of evil. Everyone works hard in New Harmony. They grow their food, preserve for the winter, and strive to meet the expectations of Father Wisdom. Failure requires chastisement, which outside of New Harmony would be described as severe beatings that don't leave scars. Abnegation has a problem with submission and has suffered through many, many chastisements to control the demon within.

Abnegation has taken the chastisement on herself for her sister Ashes -- volunteering to take the caning to save her sister. After, she learns that Ashes was chastised anyway, and eventually died. Finally, Abnegation realizes she must leave and slips away in the night. She has no real destination, little knowledge, and no experience of the world outside New Harmony. She heads out to where she believes there's a road and is chased by dogs. Reaching the road, she's nearly hit by a car.

The driver, Steph Marchande, is relieved to find she didn't hurt the girl. Not knowing what's going on she intercedes with the farmer who owns the dogs and offers Abnegation a ride. After some conversation, Steph decides to call Abnegation, Abby. Steph is newly divorced and pregnant and going to stay with her brother in Seattle. Learning that Abby has no one and has been living, as Steph terms it, in a cult, she agrees to allow Abby to come to Seattle and help her out 'til the baby is born.

Steph is at heart a good person who has made some bad decisions. Abby is frankly a fish out of water, learning that the world outside of New Harmony is not what she expected. Steph insists that Abby go to school, but puts her in an all girls school figuring it will make the transition easier for her. Steph's brother, Morgan, just rolls with the changes when Steph arrives with a 'niece' in tow.

Abby is trying to fit in, and Steph and Morgan are trying to help as best they can, but Abby isn't telling everything. She's noticed some changes in herself since she's left New Harmony. Mostly, she's feeling overwhelmed and isn't sure what she can talk about and what she should hide of her past. She's beginning to think that Father Wisdom's talk of controlling her demon may not have been a metaphor after all.

While the reader may guess what's going on, Abby has no background in popular culture and movies to aid her, other than the movies that Morgan watches with her when Steph is at work. She may have left New Harmony but she's suffering from a form of PSTD from her upbringing. She's got her new life but the old life doesn't just disappear and the voice and teachings of Father Wisdom can't be put aside as easily as her old clothes.

It's not a story that is simply Abby's coming of age and transition from a strict religious family compound to modern society and all that implies. Steph has an ex-husband who is cruel and wants his child no matter who he has to hurt to get him. And Abby, who thinks she may have a demon inside of her, is caught in the middle.

This is a werewolf story with heart, depth, and unexpected twists to reader expectations.

Our Readers Respond

From: Fred McGalliard
A long time SF reader. Before it split into SF and fantasy. And of course the author is my daughter. Still, it was a very good read.

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