The Rust Maidens by Gwendolyn Kiste is an amazing book and you're all in for a treat. I was very excited to have been given an ARC as this is an author who's work I've been avidly following. Initialy she was mostly a short story writer, gracing the pages of Black Static, Lamplight, Interzone, Shimmer, Nightmare and a whole load more. Since then she turned her hand to writing a critically acclaimed novella, Pretty Marys All in a Row which was released last year.
And 2018 heralds her first novel - The Rust Maidens.
The Rust Maidens is set in Ohio during the 80's the title is a reference to what became known as the Rust Belt when industry rapidly declined leaving many families out of work. Rust Maidens follows the tale of the inhabitants of Denton street battling to survive the economic downturn. Things get a whole load worse for them, but it's not just the men who suffer but the women too, particularly the Rust Maidens made to suffer the actions of man.
Told mostly in flashback through Phoebe Shaw who returns reluctantly to her old home after 28 years to find her scars have not healed as well and she would have hoped. Ms Kiste has created a beautifully haunting landscape which also manages to be creepy and threatening at the same time. I too grew up in a small town and she has brilliantly captured the claustrophobic living conditions where the past and present taunt you every day.
Cleveland, Ohio is a town Phoebe is desperate to escape once she's graduated from High School, she plans to run into the sunset with her beloved cousin Jacqueline but her plans are scuppered when four local girls fall prey to a mysterious illness that no one can explain.
This is a coming of age story like no other, at first the girls are left to fend for themselves, even their nearest and dearest are unwilling to help them they would rather forget they ever existed. However Phoebe won't turn a blind eye and goes to battle like Joan of Arc.
I found Phoebe a really interesting character, the final girl who gets to tell her story in her own words. What I like about Phoebe is that she possesses none of the usual final girl traits that allow them to survive. She's not a virginal innocent young girl, she does what she wants, never bites her tongue and not afraid to get into a fight. And she certainly doesn't allow herself to fall in love with the bad guy.
I really enjoyed this book. I could discuss it for hours but I don't like adding spoilers into my review and ruin the story for those of you who have yet to read it. Let's just say it's a book you can quite happily read over and over again.
It's a little off topic but this book reminds me of watching a history programme where a female historian was lamenting the fact that so many important women have vanished from history, and this book really reflects that. This is what Phoebe fights for, to have them remembered.