Review: American Midnight: Tales of the Dark

American Midnight - Tales of the Dark

“A chilling collection of classic weird and supernatural tales from the dark heart of American literature.”

As soon as I saw the description for American Midnight: Tales of the Dark, I knew I had to read it. This collection of short stories is edited by Laird Hunt, and contains eerie stories all by American authors. Some were classic titles I instantly recognized, and others were new to me, but all of them gave me chills and kept me up at night.

Finding the energy to focus on reading has been difficult lately (thanks, COVID), and I typically only have the energy to read 20 pages or so before my attention starts to drift. At first I thought, “Wow, I’m never going to be able to finish a book at this rate!” But then I remembered that short stories exist, and reading became enjoyable again.

I’ve always been a fan of horror stories, so this collection was an automatic must-read for me.

American Midnight contains the following:

  • “The Masque of the Red Death” by Edgar Allen Poe
  • “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • “The Eyes” by Edith Wharton
  • “The Mask” by Robert W. Chambers
  • “Home” by Shirley Jackson
  • “A Ghost Story” by Mark Twain
  • “Spunk” by Zora Neale Hurston
  • “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  • “An Itinerant House” by Emma Frances Dawson

I appreciated the diversity in authors, and enjoyed the mix of sub-genres. Throughout the book we see ghosts, witches, haunted houses, plagues, and more. It was a great mix, and some stories definitely stood out to me more than others.

The most chilling for me was Edith Wharton’s “The Eyes.” I’d never read this story before, and think it’s fine if I never read it again. After finishing it, I fought the urge to check the end of my bed for paranormal apparitions, but was torn between wanting to make sure nothing was there, and the sheer horror of what I would feel if something did appear.

“The Yellow Wallpaper” was also exceptional. I’ve read this story before—once in high school, and again for an undergrad class—but it had been almost eight years since I’d last read it. Reading it again as an almost 30 year old woman was a totally different experience, and I found myself relating to the narrator in a whole new way.

I was also surprised by how much I enjoyed “A Ghost Story” by Mark Twain. Usually, I am utterly terrified of ghost stories, but this one made me sad. By the end of it, all I wanted to do was give the ghost a hug. It showed me that not all ghosts are necessarily scary or evil, and you shouldn’t always be afraid of them.

There were a couple stories that I didn’t particularly enjoy, but overall, this collection was fantastic. The forward was also wonderful to read, wherein the editor shared his own personal ghostly encounter.

If you’re a fan of spooky stories, short stories, or American literature, you’ll want to add this collection to your list.

Thank you to the publisher (Pushkin Press) for an electronic copy of this book via NetGalley. American Midnight: Tales of the Dark will be available on August 25, 2020 (in Canada), and can be pre-ordered or purchased wherever books are sold.

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