Lucky Girl How I Became A Horror Writer by M. Rickert (reviewed by Daniel H.)


Official Author Website
Order Lucky Girl HERE


Before earning her MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts, M. Rickert (she/her)
worked as a kindergarten teacher, coffee shop barista, Disneyland balloon
vendor, and personnel assistant in Sequoia National Park. She has published the
short story collections Map of Dreams,
Holiday, and You Have Never Been Here. Her first novel, The Memory Garden, was published in 2014, and won the Locus award.
Her second novel, The Shipbuilder of
, was published in 2021. She is the winner of the Crawford Award,
World Fantasy Award, and Shirley Jackson Award and has been nominated for the
Nebula, Bram Stoker, International Horror Guild, Sturgeon, and British Science
Fiction Award. She currently lives in Cedarburg, Wisconsin.


OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: Lucky Girl, How I Became A Horror Writer is a
story told across Christmases, rooted in loneliness, horror, and the
ever-lurking presence of Krampus written by World Fantasy and Shirley Jackson
Award-winning author M. Rickert.


Ro, a struggling writer,
knows all too well the pain and solitude that holiday festivities can awaken.
When she meets four people at the local diner – all of them strangers and as
lonely as Ro is – she invites them to an impromptu Christmas dinner. And when
that party seems in danger of an early end, she suggests they each tell a ghost
story. One that’s seasonally appropriate. But Ro will come to learn that the
horrors hidden in a Christmas – or one’s past – can never be tamed once


FORMAT/INFO: Lucky Girl is a
novella of 112 pages written from the first-person perspective of main character Roanoke (Ro). It released
from Tordotcom in September 2022 in paperback  and e-book formats.


OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Let’s get the Krampus in
the room out of the way first. Most of the marketing and coverage of M.
Rickert’s holiday-themed novella from last year lists the title as Lucky Girl, How I Became a Horror Writer.
But a quick glance at the cover shows the sub-subtitle “A Krampus Story” writ
larger than the primary. This may end up confusing some, as the folkloric Krampus only appears briefly in mention as a physical
being. Yet, the phrase “ever-lurking presence of Krampus” in the official book
blurb is still accurate. Lucky Girl
is an ironic title about justice and retribution, the exact spirit of what the
horned Christmas monster symbolizes. Just don’t expect an action horror here,
filled with birch-rod, child-flailing antagonism.


Lucky Girl is a slow-build horror in
the vein of classic ghost stories of one like M.R. James, built around gradual revelation of human monstrosity
and trauma among this group of strangers who surreptitiously gather to exchange
tales of unease amid holiday isolation. As the novella progresses the reader
learns more about Ro and her
seasonal companions through the relation of their ghost stories, of the
horrific individual experiences that unite them in being alone, fearful of
connection. How much of these stories are based in truth and how much are
fabrications rests uncertain, but the novella’s conclusion uncovers deeper
secret connections between members of the group than first known.


strengths of Lucky Girl lie in its
atmosphere and Rickert’s effective
focus on those Krampus-themes of retribution and justice. These elements nicely
coalesce within the character of Ro and her back-story, and her point-of-view
development works extremely effectively through the novella, with Rickert
landing the ultimate ending very nicely.


the other characters could have benefited from more development, and an
extension of this novella to a longer format, or paring its ambition down to
something shorter. A good deal of the length here comes from the episodic
nature of the stories and the group’s meetings through time. Yet, that time
doesn’t pass linearly, and Lucky Girl
does some hopping between times (and Ro’s
further pre-group past) in ways that detract from the pacing and momentum of
the overall story.


these regards I’d say that Lucky Girl
therefore serves as a very faithful modern-day take on older gothic tales of
ghosts or the weird, embracing things that can work well and complexities that
can make it a bit muddled in drawing discrete ghost stories together into a
surprising and unsettling ending.


CONCLUSION: Although a
Christmas-themed endeavor, the novella originally released in September, and
truly it serves as something far more general than imparting holiday vibes. If
you passed up or missed Lucky Girl
last year, I’d recommend seeking it out, either for an immediate subtly
unneverving read or to keep in store for the Halloween through Christmas
season. Just don’t go into this with any expectation that the Krampus character
fits dominantly or directly within it. Readers familiar with Rickert’s stories in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science
, or elsewhere, should easily enjoy this offering, as will anyone
with tastes that typically align to Ellen
Datlow’s editorial preferences. Though Lucky
may not offer the satisfaction that a more developped and extended
story could, the novella is a successful amuse-bouche
of gothic fantasy in a modern setting.

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