Published: 6 February, 2018 by Dey Street Books
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Have you ever found yourself in an airport with nothing to read and a dead battery on your e-reader? A couple months ago I was traveling home from my friends’ wedding and found myself in exactly this situation. I ducked into an airport bookstore and saw Sister of Darkness: Chronicles of a Modern Exorcist by R.H. Stavis. Airport bookstores tend to have slim pickings aside from bestsellers (generally not my genres), and this book looked both weird and wild. In other words, promising!
The basic premise: west coast goth sees entities that have attached themselves to people for various reasons, and starts doing exorcisms on the side. She’s able to help people get over their (literal or metaphorical) demons so they can live to their full potential.
The descriptions of the different types of entities and the way that the author interacts with them reminds me a little bit of anime where the main character is the only person who can see the yokai, the other creatures who live both within and beyond our world and comprehension. The entities themselves exist on a continuum from mostly harmless to pretty disruptive in people’s day-to-day lives, and once an entity attaches to a person, it shapes their interactions with the world. Entities can attach to people for many reasons, but usually, one type of entity gravitates towards people who have had certain life experiences (abuse, etc.). And because the author can see the visual manifestations, she can exorcise them.
I found the book interesting, if not a bit melodramatic. The author’s description of her childhood in particular felt like it was making mountains out of molehills, and taking very normal experiences and making them seem more supernatural than they are or might be. There’s a lot of bragging about her unnamed Hollywood clients, and I found it off-putting, and a flat-out dismissal of other people’s spiritual beliefs that don’t align with her worldview. But the one thing that came through clearly to me was the author’s desire to be believed: the words “believe me” and “trust me” are repeated throughout the book nearly constantly, highlighting a sense of vulnerability beyond the grandiose facade.
The book itself feels like a cross between a memoir, a guide to what kind of entities are out there, and a promotion for an upcoming televised special. Which, of course, is true–the author is currently working on a documentary about an exorcism of the Cecil Hotel, so the book serves as a way of building buzz before it is released.
Overall verdict: an engaging trainwreck, but now I find myself waiting to see that documentary on the Cecil Hotel exorcism, so there’s that.