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Side by Side Book Review: TELECOMMUTING by L. Marie Wood




Sadie's Review:




I first encountered L. Marie Wood's writing in SLAY: Stories of the Vampire Noire anthology. Her story, THE DANCE was an erotic, girl meets girl story with a dark twist. I mentioned in my review that the sexual tension was off the charts. Several months later, I'm still able to "see" the visuals Wood conjured up in my mind; that's potent!
TELECOMMUTING is a psychological slow burn. It's a story for right now. Chris lives in a big house all alone. It's isolating. To double down, he lands a job working from home.

Most of the narrative is in a stream of consciousness style where Chris's inner thoughts are relayed to the reader in their natural state. This can be disorienting at times but for the most part, I thought it served the story well. Chris's brain is a whirlwind of emotions, intrusive thoughts, and anxiety.
It's easy to relate and see yourself while reading what he's experiencing; especially after spending most of 2020 in global pandemic lockdown.

Wood takes her protagonist, a seemingly normal guy going through a breakup with a live-in partner or a divorce (I can't remember), and plunges him down into a dark spiral of paranoia. It's quite an unsettling and uncomfortable reading experience. Chris has normal, everyday interactions with his neighbors but somehow, they always get weird and twisted out of context in his mind. It becomes increasingly difficult to discern if our narrator is reliable or actually losing his mind.

"Note to self: Fuck going outside." @mother.horror




Janelle's Review
L. Marie Wood’s Telecommuting is short fiction that I can only assume is based on life in the pandemic. I mean, the title alone makes that pretty obvious. Life as we know it changed for months and months. A good portion of us had to change everything, as we all started to work from home full time, and kids had to deal with online school. After so long, people became isolated, relationships were under stress, insomnia kicked in, and some became depressed. But remember, this is a horror story, and not only horror, but psychological horror. This author truly messes with our heads.
Our narrator has quite an inner monologue, and right off the bat we figure out an ex-girlfriend broke up with him, leaving him in a large, empty house alone. Then we spend the day with our narrator, as he works from home. The dialog is written as stream of consciousness and feels claustrophobic, bitter, and paranoid. I felt the sense of dread throughout, and around chapter fifteen, it set itself up for a clever ending.
Telecommuting took me no time to read, so I did so twice. I wanted to make sure I understood the ending, and I liked it even more the second time around. The story didn’t feel suspenseful until about midway through, but then I felt the horror. @shereadswithcats


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