TITLE: Mapping the Interior
AUTHOR: Stephen Graham Jones
AGE RANGE: Adult
Walking through his own house at night, a fifteen-year-old thinks he sees another person stepping through a doorway. Instead of the people who could be there, his mother or his brother, the figure reminds him of his long-gone father, who died mysteriously before his family left the reservation. When he follows it he discovers his house is bigger and deeper than he knew.
The house is the kind of wrong place where you can lose yourself and find things you’d rather not have. Over the course of a few nights, the boy tries to map out his house in an effort that puts his little brother in the worst danger, and puts him in the position to save them . . . at terrible cost.
I was twelve the first time I saw my dead father cross from the kitchen doorway to the hall that led back to the utility room.
I’ve reached a point in my life where I buy print copies of SGJ titles whenever possible, because I already know ahead of time that I’m going to highlight the hell out of it, just as I did with this one. Half of my copy of this little story is highlighted because there’s something about this author’s writing that mesmerizes me from the very first page and doesn’t let go, and Mapping the Interior was no exception.
Mapping the Interior isn’t your average ghost story: in this, we follow a teen boy who’s seeing his late father’s ghost, but the spirit’s motives are unclear at first. Is he visiting to watch his boys grow up? Is he seeking out closure for unfinished business? Or is there something darker at play here?
This novella packs such a powerful punch, and in so few pages! It’s an atmospheric, immensely eerie horror tale, but it’s also a look at Native experiences, generational trauma, and the endless absences that grief creates. Junior and his younger brother Dino are impossible not to fall in love with, which created such a high-stakes, emotional reading experience for me.
There’s something about SGJ’s way as a natural storyteller that makes every story feel like sitting at a campfire, listening to the most incredulous tales, hanging on every word — and, as always, I walk away already eager for the next one.
death, loss of a parent, ableism, bullying, dog attacks, pet death/mutilation, gore, self-harm
the narrator and his family are Native American
— destiny ♥