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Tananarive Due's Latest Collection is a Treasure Trove of Unmissable Horror Stories

The Wishing Pool will chill you.

The Wishing Pool by Tananarive Due

Horror readers need to know that Tananarive Due’s work is essential to the genre in order to experience the full breadth of what horror has to offer. It is imperative to prioritize reading her books. If you’re new to Due’s storytelling, a short story collection is the best place to start. I started with Ghost Summer, her first collection from 2015. Just like Ghost Summer, The Wishing Pool offers a variety of stories told in different styles and subgenres categorized into parts. 

  • Part I: Wishes
  • Part II: The Gracetown Stories
  • Part III: The Nayima Stories
  • Part IV: Future Shock

You can enjoy the book cover-to-cover or begin with the Part that appeals to you first. There is literally “something for everyone”, and as cliche as that statement can be, it has never been so true as it is when referring to either of Due’s collected stories. I am convinced that any reader could find their next, favorite story in their most beloved genre in this collection. And that favorite story will be different for everyone. I’ll tell you mine at the end of this review.

But first, some essential details you need to know:

  • Subgenre: Afrofuturism, Southern Gothic, Science Fiction, Dystopian, Coming-of-Age, Historical Fiction, Horror, Suspense & Thriller, Mystery, Psychological, Apocalyptic, Supernatural & Paranormal, Fantasy
  • Themes: Magical realism, friendship, human monsters, racism, resilient women, hope, the African American experience, pandemic outbreak, 
  • Writing Style: Character-Driven, Critically acclaimed, Stephen King(ish), Cinematic, Versatile

The Wishing Pool and Other Stories

By Tananarive Due

My Reading Experience

I requested a review copy immediately. It has been almost a decade since Ghost Summer and I was sure Due would have some amazing stories collected over those years for The Wishing Pool.

Part 1: Wishes

These are supernatural/paranormal in nature. The titular tale is also the first and it sets reader expectations perfectly. A woman is driving back to a cabin in the woods her family enjoyed when she was a child. She remembers how her and a friend used to make wishes over a secret pool. Although short, it is a sweet tease for what’s to come. You might have heard this one showcased on the podcast LeVar Burton Reads.

Bookworms, prepare yourselves for your horror dreams to come true in, "Haint in the Window", a story about a haunted bookstore. Yes, it’s everything you want it to be.

"Incident at Bear Creek Lodge" is one of my favorites because Tananarive Due shines the most when she narrates a story from a young person’s point of view. She’s just so damn good at it.

Part II: Gracetown

Now here we go, readers! Are you ready for Gracetown, Florida? You’ve been to this fictitious town before if you’ve been keeping up with Due’s work. Gracetown is her Castle Rock, her version of Derry. Her newest novel coming in the fall, The Reformatory, takes place in Gracetown too. A lot of bad things go down here.

"Last Stop on Route 9" is a “road trip gone wrong” horror story about some women who get lost and wind up on some backroads in Gracetown. No cell service, no maps, and the unsettling feeling they aren’t welcome to stop and ask for directions. As I was reading, I literally imagined the story directed by Jordan Peele in my mind; it was perfectly executed. I highly recommend indulging in those cinematic visual cues. 

I also have to talk about "Rumpus Room". This is about a young woman who reacted to her child in anger and accidentally caused her to break her arm. The woman's mother takes temporary custody of the child and the woman moves into the downstairs rumpus room of an older man’s house. At first, things seem pretty chill but as she begins to take in her surroundings, she realizes that she overlooked certain red flags. This is the longest story in the collection, I think, and the one that gave me goosebumps. It felt so real.

One of Due’s skills is authentic dialogue and a smooth, easy, acceptable narrative. It’s easy to slip right into the story and lose all sense of time and place. I was in that rumpus room with Kat while she found strange things in the bathroom and wondered why there used to be a lock on the outside of the door. It made my skin crawl.

summer horror novels

Ghost Summer

By Tananarive Due

Part III: The Nayima Stories & Part IV: Future Stories

Horror junkies who specifically show up for science-fiction and apocalyptic horror will love all of Tananrive Due’s stories with the protagonist, Nayima. In fact, if you do a quick Google search, there are a few shorts online for free. Check out "Herd Immunity", which appears in Ghost Summer too.

For me, the real gems in these two parts were "Shopping Day" about the concerns of even mundane, essential tasks like buying groceries during a pandemic, and "The Biographer", a post-pandemic-apocalyptic story about chronicling the lives of every single person. A biographer comes to stay with a subject until the biography is complete.

During my read through this entire collection, I had an overwhelming sense of what a treasure short stories are; bite-sized works of fiction we can consume a little or a lot of depending on what our heart needs.

My Final Recommendation

This is a treasure! Taken together, The Wishing Pool and Ghost Summer are the perfect compendia of modern horror. Readers get a little bit of everything horror offers by way of beloved tropes and a full range of subgenres. 

Comparable titles: Ghost Summer by Tananarive Due, Night Shift by Stephen King, Mestiza Blood by V. Castro

Don't Miss The Wishing Pool and Other Stories by Tanarive Due!


The Wishing Pool and Other Stories

By Tananarive Due