The Tides [ePub]

by Melanie Tem

The malevolent spirit moving about The Tides nursing home is named Faye. We learn this in the first line of Tem's novel when Marshall Emig calls it out. We was once married to Faye, a dangerous woman in life and in death. It is perhaps his growing dementia from Alzheimer's that has given her an entree into the Tides. She uses such weaknesses to pass through the residents. She can exploit their illnesses, their addictions, their guilts, and their rage to make horrible things happen. And everyone, to some degree, is aware of her presence. She is a diaphanous shimmer easily mistaken for a trick of the unpleasant fluorescent lighting throughout the building, or the the fog that settles into the drained lake the home. She is sometimes in a room before one of the staff turns on the light. She taps with increasing frustration on the skull of a quadriplegic who still has the power to keep her out.

Rebecca Emig is Marshall's daughter and the director of The Tides. She is only twenty-eight and seems too young for the job. But she probably came cheap and the facility is run on a too-tight budget. She would possibly be out of her depth even without a malevolent spirit causing on old man to pour oven cleaner on his pancakes or provoking an alcoholic resident to rape an elderly woman who tends to make unsuccessful escapes for a home she no longer knows how to locate.

Tem's novel never finds a strong focus. Rebecca cannot really carry the narrative, and there are so many shifts in viewpoints that Faye's actions become predictable in the frequency if not their specifics. The deeper mystery of Faye, Rebecca, her father and her mother who makes daily visits is also revealed to early on to maintain any suspense value as the story unfolds.

But Tem's background as a social worker serves her well when it comes to creating characters that suffer real and saddening problems, both mental and physical. They cannot grasp what is happening to them, and the most frightening aspect of the novel is Faye's motivation. She just wants to have a good time, and that just happens to involve wrecking the lives of all those she comes into contact with.



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