By Mark Haskell
This was a very charming and unusual read that I would recommend to other readers who are a fan of the horror genre.
“Monstrilio” is the story of a grieving mother named Magos, whose 11-year-old son Santiago is dead. The son was born to Mexican immigrants with one misshapen lung and he was not expected to survive the night. Yet, to the surprise of his parents, the son, Santiago, survives the night and lives for a further 11 years until he passes away.
The grieving mother cuts a piece of her son’s lung and tends to it because of the maternal instinct being felt at that moment. Magos and her mother move back to Mexico with the piece of lung to start anew.
Later in the story, the lung gains sentience due to the care it was receiving by Magos. The lung grew into the eponymous Monstrilio and kept hidden away within the decaying walls of the family estate in Mexico City.
In time, the being starts to resemble the Santiago of old. However, the being’s innate impulses begin to destroy the immensely brittle second chance of existence.
There are many strengths to this book that are most fascinating. When I read the book, a strength that was discovered is that it plays out in four parts. The first part of the story is an introduction to the family and the creation of the Monstrilio. The second part of the story is a deep dive into feelings of loneliness and love.
The third part of the story is a clean-up after experiencing loss. A strength that was especially fascinating and impactful is the nature of the fourth part of the story. It took me into the psyche of a being, inhuman and human, who was experiencing life in a human way despite being inhuman.
Another strength that I found about this story is that it is a hybrid of horror, a meditation on grief, and a tale of the impossible as a being that is required to live in the shadow of the deceased. This novel has the gift of being strange and heartbreaking with a sharp narrative about grief and the debate of nature versus nurture.
The novel that Sámano Córdova has created has the DNA of classic horror, similarly to the works of Stephen King and other influential writers within the genre. A strength that I found to be one of a kind is the unique perspective of characters and the diverse cast.
The uniqueness of perspective and characters places the author within a growing movement of writers who bleed originality out of horror’s insights into otherness, expanding the genre to include LGBTQ+ characters and characters of color as well as their culture and background.
A strength that I am amazed by and grateful for is the fact that there is representation within the novel and many others like it to include LGBTQ+ characters and characters of color too.
When I was reading this novel, I did not find anything major that I would deem as a negative. All I found were positives and I am pleased about that.
Though, I did not like the Monstrilio at first until I knew the backstory of the character, until I understood its experience. With the understanding of Monstrilio's experience and the resulting grief, I can empathize with many of the characters.
This is the author’s debut novel, an outstanding novel that has made an impact on me, the reader, as it brings to the forefront elements of grief, loss, love, and loneliness. These elements, without compromise, are real and the most raw of human emotions. These emotions are easily explorable, just as they are.
This read was a fresh take on horror for me, one that I had never seen before.
A: An unusual, but satisfying novel