“The trees that ring this lake wear their autumn leaves like old bruises – brownish-greens and yellows, oranges, and plums. They remind me of the bruises that ringed my wrists all those summers ago.”
These are just two representative lines from the hauntingly beautiful prose that weaves its way throughout Only the Stains Remain by Ross Jeffery. The story is one of horrific abuse endured by the narrator, Jude, and his older brother, Kyle. When the tale begins, no longer a child, Jude has returned to a place from his youth – a spot that was once filled with the wonder of childhood joy. But that joy has long been obliterated by the evil visited upon him following the death of his beloved mother – evil that now must be avenged. Jude carries with him a backpack, full of mementos – items that have meaning, both good and bad – items he removes one by one as he recalls what happened to Kyle and to himself so many summers before.
The abuse these two boys suffer after their mother dies is at the hands of their two uncles, a family friend who becomes an “uncle,” and, most horribly, their own father, who by omission and commission, allows them to fall prey to the monsters. Kyle sacrifices himself in an attempt to save his younger brother and, as a result, is destroyed, leaving Jude alone, the sole object of the uncles’ perverted urges.
This is a story of abuse, revenge, retribution, and, most of all, survival. The abuse itself is, for the most part, suggested, not graphically depicted. Author Jeffrey leaves it up to the reader to visualize what happens when the uncles take Kyle “for a ride.” To this reader, it wasn’t a very pretty scene.
Only the Stains Remain is a beautifully written novella that will stay with this reader long after the last page was read. Magnificent and astounding, this novella moved me terribly. It comes most highly recommended, although those with histories of abuse are forewarned at the beginning by the author that his prose may contain triggers. Horrific as the subject matter is, Only the Stains Remain was so beautifully written, I could not put it down. 5 Stars.
As a voting member of the Horror Writers Association, I was provided with a free copy of this novella in consideration for a Bram Stoker Award. I want to thank the author for allowing me the privilege of reading and reviewing his work.