Midwestern Gothic is “dedicated to featuring work about or inspired by the Midwest, by writers who live or have lived here.” On their About page, the editors say, “we take to heart the realistic aspects of Gothic fiction. Not every piece needs to be dark or twisted or full of despair, but we are looking for real life, inspired by the region, good, bad, or ugly.”
Their goal immediately becomes a reality in the Spring 2015 issue in Corey Mertes’s “Psychiatrist.” Trouble lurks just below the surface of Allie and Rob’s seemingly perfect relationship. Mertes’s writing slowly reveals the cracks in Allie’s composure in a way that’s both heartbreaking and suspenseful as readers meet the truths right beside Allie. We see the good, bad, and ugly in just 14 pages.
Along a similar vein, Rachel Proctor May looks at a relationship in ruin in “But Then There Was the Dog.” After her husband’s conviction, Jillian packs away his things, seeks a roommate to fill his fiscal place, and plans her DIY divorce, but is left unsure of what to do with Penny—“a stubborn red avalanche of slobber and jaws”—her husband’s dog. The ending really makes this story, each page leading up to the crushing climax.
Lindsey Steffes settles readers into the region in “Gichigami,” which takes place on an island in Lake Superior in winter where tourists come “just to take pictures of it. Just to take a step on the ice. Just to say they did it.” She and her father are turning their house into a castle while she comes of age without her mother, wanting to rebel by going to the dance in a sequined dress and shoplifting makeup. Steffes has created a story as lonely and desolate as the winter in which it takes place.
The poetry in this issue is perfect for spring, many of the poems focused on or utilizing nature. The speaker in Marianna Hofer’s “Every Family Has that One Story that Drives Someone to Steal” cuts lilacs from her deceased uncle’s old farmhouse, using his sheers she eventually steals for herself. In “Memorial Day,” Scott Beal imagines fish kissing a lost bocce ball down into the depths with other missing, hidden objects of humans. Chris Haven’s speaker in “Trust in the Wild” examines the taming of wild animals and how that affects their safety from the world. In “Gathering of Cranes” by James Barnett, sandhill cranes are the focus with “their awkward bodies” and “throaty squarks.”
Beyond walking readers through nature, this issue also travels around different cities, from an art installation in Grand Rapids, Michigan (“The Installationists” by Todd Mercer) to Minneapolis, Minnesota (“Welcome to Milwaukee” by Sam Slaughter) where friends paint “Welcome to Milwaukee” on a roof and wish to leave the region that, to some, feels more like a cage. We visit nameless countryside homes with yellow-painted kitchens in “The Accidental Beekeper” by Alysia Sawchyn, and Rock Island, Illinois where Jillian Merrifield visits gun stores and a frat house in “A Breakup Story, Catalogued in Guns.”
The cloudy, fall photo on the cover, taken by David J. Thompson, is a familiar scene for those living in the Midwest. Readers from this part of the country will definitely enjoy this issue and Midwestern Gothic as a whole. However, the works in this issue are all universally human enough that anyone from any region will be able to find a piece to love.