Long-form ghost stories are rare, probably because they’re difficult to pull off. You have to keep the tension ramped up. You have to work within a story archetype, but surprise your readers and keep them on their toes. You have to write in such a way that not only do the characters have no idea what’s going to happen, but neither does your audience. In short, you need a lot up your sleeve.
Ancient Oceans of Central Kentucky moves in tightening circles, spinning closer and closer to a rabbit hole of a drain. We follow Leah Shepherd, who has returned to her semi-fictional hometown of Crow Station, Kentucky after a stint in graduate school and a broken-off engagement. Her job as a social worker with a tiny nonprofit feeds bits of surreal, small-town humor into the text: a woman asks for a felony charge to be dismissed because it’s her birthday; a dead dog is found on the side of the road and becomes the all-encompassing conversation topic for a day. Throughout the novel, Leah is reminded of her little brother Jacob who went missing when they were children, and behind every plot advancement is the lurking knowledge that something bad is going to happen.