Awesome Possum

Back in the day, author, firebrand and dragonslayer Gore Vidal made a memorable (but dismissive) comment about contemporary fiction.

“Readers like books with a lot of dialogue,” he said at the time, “because they can skim pages quickly and finish books faster. It makes people feel good about themselves. It gives them a sense of accomplishment.”

That quote was rattling around inside my head immediately after reading Playing Possum by Stephanie Rabig. I swear I sat down with her book one Saturday afternoon and 10 minutes later I was done with it.

I confess, time flows differently in my house, but the point remains: Rabig’s dialogue-heavy novel can be finished in one sitting without a bathroom break and with just a single cup of coffee.

Did it make me feel good about myself? Did it give me, as Gore Vidal opined years ago, a sense of accomplishment? Yes, I suppose so, maybe, I dunno. One thing is certain; I wouldn’t have plowed through Playing Possum if it didn’t compel me to keep turning pages.

Rabig’s novel is a creature feature “nature runs amok” comedy about small town family feuds, nasty hoodoo and hissing were-possums. There’s even a sweet romance too. I admit, the book probably could have benefited from a more equitable mix of dialogue, narration and action, but otherwise it’s totally awesome. It’s probably the most popular possum horror novel in the Okefenokee Swamp library.

Actually, the author gives readers two possum abominations: zombie-possums and were-possums. The “possum-people” had black eyes, white and gray fur and “wickedly pointed teeth.” They reminded me a lot of Kristen Wiig in her Cheetah outfit from the latest Wonder Woman movie.

The zombie-possums weren’t as glamorous as Kristen Wiig, unfortunately. They were just rabid opossums blindly obeying a hoodoo spell. The locals quickly knew something wasn’t right. “Possums were supposed to play dead or something, not attack,” cried the book’s first victim. “And they sure as hell didn’t hunt in packs!”

My favorite scene occurs when an army of possessed possums attacks the Sunny Side Up Diner à la Night of the Living Dead. As you can imagine, a skirmish in a restaurant is ripe for slapstick and Rabig knows it. Her waitstaff use anything handy to protect their customers and themselves: iron skillets, forks, spatulas, serving trays, toasters, bar stools and fire extinguishers. Frontline workers, we salute you.

[Playing Possum / By Stephanie Rabig / First Printing: April 2020 / ISBN: 978634951782]