Horror at 48 Ford Crescent

by Erica McKeen

Toronto: Invisible Books, 2022
$22.95 / 9781778430060

Reviewed by Myshara Herbert-McMyn


When Frances moves into 48 Ford Crescent with her roommates Ky, Katie, and Reese she knows that something is wrong with the house. This line from the first chapter explains her apprehension very well and sets the tone for the novel: “Frances nodded and said, Me neither. I can’t see anything unusual. And she thought, I’ll get lost putting my shoes on at the front door.

Visually, 48 Ford Crescent is the most average, unassuming house amid an average, unassuming neighbourhood of families and college students. Frances must have been the puzzle piece that this particular house was waiting for. Only a few pages later as she lay in the basement bedroom, she thinks “There’s something living here with me. I’m not alone down here.” She has stopped going upstairs by this point, though it’s unclear whether that was by choice or because the door to the basement wouldn’t open for her. 

There are a great number of uncertainties in Tear that lend to Frances’ status as an untrustworthy narrator. Is it mental illness or a disorder that keeps her trapped in the basement and her mind? Did her roommates lock the door to the basement, either unaware or uncaring that she was trapped down there? Is the knocking she hears from the other side of her bedroom wall real? Imagined? Does she die in the basement only to be absorbed and reborn through her memories as a creature that dug through her wall? Perhaps her mother truly did carry her body away. 

Author Erica McKeen

There are few solid answers. Much of Vancouver author Erica McKeen’s Tear is left up to the reader’s perception and interpretation.

When the creature from the wall began taking form (in her mind or reality), I was intensely reminded of a short story I read for a class called Non-Human Consciousness. The short story is called “The Mushroom Queen” by Liz Ziemska and tells the story of a woman and the mycelial network that reaches into her backyard. The mycelium takes the woman and builds itself a replica of her body to infiltrate her house and experience being human. In exchange, the woman’s consciousness is placed inside the mycelial network and sent far away to the other side of the planet. 

Though a more directly than Tear, “The Mushroom Queen” highlights the importance of understanding and respecting the intelligence of things we would otherwise dismiss, lest they threaten to take over the lives we believe are our right. 

As Frances is slowly drained of her life and replaced by the creature, whatever intelligence the creature has begins to learn who Frances is from her memories and mannerisms. The act of the creature going through her memories is shown in a series of flashbacks to Frances’ childhood, focusing on her parents and one childhood friend. These memories are fraught with Frances’ strange uncertainty about life, and one has to wonder: are these memories being relayed to us correctly and truthfully? Even if they aren’t, memories are only from one perspective and usually lack context. The creature, not knowing this, creates itself into a version of Frances based on skewed memories. 

As Frances’ mental stability is also up for debate, one has to wonder if the creature itself is wrought with the same mental affliction. Perhaps it became what made it. Perhaps, more horrifically, the creature is real.

The body horror in this novel made it a paralyzing read. Every description was at once drawing me in and shoving me away. McKeen’s debut novel, Tear isn’t a read for the faint of heart. I would like to warn readers that Tear is a horror novel and therefore contains creepy and often terrifying or disgusting situations. It is well worth the feeling slipping up your spine, however, as the mystery of reality is truly up for debate and interpretation.

I cannot decide which story I’d prefer: the roommates locking her in the basement, or a creature breaking through Frances’ wall and swallowing up every bit of who she is so it can mimic her. Part of me does want the creature to be real since knowing that people would be cruel enough to lock a girl in a basement to starve and die is in many ways worse. There would be a slimmer chance of a creature doing this to people. A strange, once-in-a-blue-moon event. A creature would come for Frances, but not for everyone. But Ky, Katie, and Reese could do it to anyone. They could do it again.

When I received my copy of Tear, the cover was stuck to the glue on the shipping box, and I had no choice but to tear it to remove it from the box. Thankfully tape does wonders for holding a cover together, but what are the chances that this novel was the one out of a thousand that tore when I received it? At least I couldn’t hear a quiet scratching from the other side of my wall…




Myshara Herbert-McMyn

Myshara Herbert-McMyn is a book reviewer and aspiring writer living in Kelowna. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and Creative Writing from Thompson Rivers University and runs the blog Lit&Leta. [Editors note: Myshara Herbert-McMyn has recently reviewed books by Kate Gateley, S.M. Freedman, Tiana Warner, Brooke CarterBecky ParisottoSara DesaiTara Moss, and Sonya Lalli for BCR.]




The British Columbia Review

Interim Editors, 2023-24: Trevor Marc Hughes (non-fiction), Brett Josef Grubisic (fiction)

Publisher: Richard Mackie

Formerly The Ormsby Review, The British Columbia Review is an on-line book review and journal service for BC writers and readers. The Advisory Board consists of Jean Barman, Wade Davis, Robin Fisher, Barry Gough, Hugh Johnston, Kathy Mezei, Patricia Roy, Maria Tippett, and Graeme Wynn. Provincial Government Patron (since September 2018): Creative BC. Honorary Patron: Yosef Wosk. Scholarly Patron: SFU Graduate Liberal Studies.

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