Read A Hauntingly Beautiful Southern Gothic Novel By Local Author

Cover of Lord The One You Love Is Sick by Kasey Thornton, a modern Southern Gothic novel
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As I am stationed at my computer tonight, I’m reflecting on how long it has taken me to write and publish this post.  I wouldn’t say that I have writer’s block. Mostly, I have been worried about accurately reflecting and writing about the work of a wildly talented, hot-off-the-presses local author.  I recently had the honor to read Lord The One You Love Is Sick by Kasey Thornton, a local author with roots in Wendell, NC.  Her evocative Southern gothic novel is a must-read for anyone who wants to immerse themselves in contemporary struggles and secrets.  

* Affiliate links are used in this article to support the creation of high-quality content at no additional cost to you. For more information, please read our disclosure statement here.*

Kasey Thornton: A Woman of Many Talents

I had the privilege and pleasure to meet with Kasey in person recently on the front porch of my home.  Kasey is a natural artist.  She attended both UNC Wilmington and NC State graduate programs and now touts an MFA in Creative Writing. Beyond writing, she also operates a small hand-dipped ceramics business called Southbound Designs, which is actually how we first met. 

She had been posting about her designs and noticed my blog.  I noticed her beautiful work and bam, we were on Facebook Messenger arranging an order.  Kasey creates these gorgeously marbled ceramic pieces with all sorts of different color combinations. While she has a pre-existing inventory for sale, she can also make custom pieces.  

I opted for two custom pieces (one mug and one bowl) and her “Loch Blue” mug.  Southbound Design’s prices vary by the type of piece and its history (rescued vs. new).  But look at this beautiful work!

Southbound Designs by Kasey Thornton custom green and pink marbled mug
Southbound Designs marbled green and blue bowl by Kasey Thornton

Finding Time for The Things That Make You Happy

I will admit, I was a bit hesitant at first to order a mug since these pieces are not dishwasher safe.  All I could think about was how I pound my two cups of coffee in the morning. Then I run after my bright-eyed and bushy-tailed kids.  There is no time for handwashing things!  But then I thought of all the special pieces that I already own that I DO make time to handwash.  Special dishes, special wedding crystal, special things passed down to us from grandparents, etc.  

At one point, Kasey jokingly referred to one of my mug orders as my, “mythical relaxation days” mug.  I appreciated how much she empathized with my exhaustion from raising little ones.  But that also made me realize that perhaps these mugs could be a symbol of a future of possibilities. They represent a beacon of hope for one day having that relaxing, quiet cup of coffee or tea again.  I was sold!

Discovering A New Southern Gothic Novel

Anyway, between our conversations about Southbound Designs, Kasey also mentioned that she is the author of a published novel, titled Lord The One You Love Is Sick.  I was curious, so she sent me the link to her book on Amazon.*

The Synopsis – Lord The One You Love Is Sick

After reading the following synopsis and reviews, I purchased it that same night:

“Gentry Coats’ fatal overdose stuns a small community in North Carolina, triggering a series of tragic events that threaten the town’s traditional values. It triggers a mental breakdown in his best friend, a police officer, whose wife grapples with the burden of her vows in the face of her husband’s disturbing behavior.

Bitter and lonely, Gentry’s mother struggles to place blame surrounding the death of her oldest son, while her younger son retreats into a strange and devastating isolation. And, on the outskirts of town, an eight-year-old girl and her older sister cope with an unspeakable secret. All the while, the patriarchs of the community sit together gossiping at the local diner, trusting the Lord to heal the afflictions that haunt their beloved town.”

Diving Into An Unforgettably Fresh Take On Southern Gothic

Once it arrived,  I dove in and was hooked.  I was immediately blown away by the quality of Kasey’s writing.  I try to know my limitations as a writer and would probably never really refer to myself as one.  But, I know that I’ve read some wonderful books in my time that have stayed with me and haunted me.  I’m sure you know the type. Those books where parts of the story still creep around your brain and make you reflect on what it would be like. How your life would be if you were put in that scenario?  I got the same sensation from reading Lord The One You Love Is Sick

Admiring The Novel’s Format

One of the things I found to be so unique about this Southern Gothic book is that it is written in short stories.  Each short story follows along a similar trajectory of time, and they all have one common element to them, which is that the characters all originate from the fictional small town of Bethany, North Carolina.  However, each story is woven together into this beautiful tapestry of modern, Southern humanity.  

I appreciated that as a busy and often distracted mom, I could go back and read any of the short stories again.  But, I didn’t feel as if I needed to commit my time to rereading the entire novel.  It truly is the perfect format for today’s busy world. It’s a book for someone who wants to dive into a beautiful story at their own (possibly scattered) pace.  

What The Southern Gothic Genre With A Modern Voice Looks And Feels Like

This book is fantastically evocative.  I am still thinking about the characters and the soul-stirring stories of their lives weeks after reading Kasey’s novel.  Her diverse range of characters intermingle throughout each story to create an unforgettable tale.  

Exposing The Dirt Swept Underneath The Rug

Living in the South is romanticized by so many. However, there are serious cultural and societal struggles that many modern Southerners deal with.  Poverty, lack of access to adequate health care (including mental health services and addiction treatment), opioid addiction, and lack of social support resources are all common themes.  In my nursing days, I performed multiple clinical rotations in northeastern North Carolina and southern Virginia. I can attest to these issues that affect our towns, particularly rural areas.  In acknowledgment of these struggles, Kasey leaves no stone unturned. She addresses each one in a unique and stunningly realistic way.

Kasey also delicately highlights how religion can positively and negatively affect a family, a person, or even a town. I felt a common theme of stopping the age-old tradition of burying hushed family secrets deep down and not addressing them.  But instead, being open and knowing that it’s time to expose and meditate on the pain and struggles of the modern South. Kasey also explored how religion and faith can help or hurt that meditation.  Lord The One You Love Is Sick is truly the epitome of an introspective, contemporary Southern Gothic. 

Her Version of Southern Gothic: From The Author’s Point of View

Portrait photo of author and artist Kasey Thornton

Because I am still very much a novice at this, during my meeting with Kasey I didn’t record or write down verbatim any quotations.  However, Kasey was so kind enough to provide me with her interpretation of her debut novel.  She shared the following:

“My goal was to create a collection whose stories can stand alone or be read from front to back like a novel, and to this end, they share a single cast of characters in the same geographical location and one overarching timeline. Each story describes conflicts that exist in every part of the world—mental illness, addiction, death and grief, marriage, abuse—but it is my belief that there are areas of the South even today that insist the solutions to these challenges lie in religion, feigned social cohesion, a propensity to shy away from ugliness, and the expectation of decorousness.

In this way, the South presents a special layer of difficulty for people suffering from actual and/or societal “sicknesses” and traumas that are hidden, ignored, and treated as rare and isolated issues undeserving of actual solutions or support. This collection insists upon the existence of that phenomenon and seeks to highlight the fragilities and resiliencies of Southern relationships—between friends, parent and child, husband and wife, brother and sister—when faced with some of the most universal pain the world has to offer.”

Kasey, thank you for sharing your gifts with the world and for your bravery in telling these stories.  They are truly, poignantly beautiful.

Sometimes Porch Conversations Are The Best Conversations

Beyond Southbound Designs and Lord The One You Love Is Sick, I had a chance to chat with Kasey about living in eastern Wake County.  We discussed the rapid pace at which the area is being developed and growing.  I ask Kasey what her wish was for this part of the Triangle over the next ten years. 

She thought for a moment. Kasey shared with me a story about how she grew up playing near a pond that was always private, quiet, and beautiful.  It felt like her own peaceful sanctuary.  But now, that area has been converted into a public park.  This exposure of her childhood treasure has brought mixed emotions. It feels difficult to share something so beautiful and what has long been so private. But now its beauty and serenity can be enjoyed by others.  And at least they didn’t build high-rise condos there!

Where Do We Go From Here?

We discussed how the above scenario is just like being a Southerner living in changing times.  It’s being filled with mixed feelings of fear that all that you hold sacred is going to be taken away from you versus a profound pride and wanting to showcase all of what makes your culture so special.  The balance of these two things is an ongoing challenge but also an opportunity for all.  It’s an opportunity for locals to accept new ideas and resources.  It’s also an opportunity for newcomers to step back, appreciate all of the beauty that already exists in a place, honor local traditions, and stop immediately asking for someone to build a dang Chipotle.  

Enjoying My Honorary North Carolina Local Badge

After our conversation, I got what I felt was the highest praise of all from Kasey.  We chatted about my perspective of this area as a non-local but still born-and-raised-in-southern-Virginia girl. I shared with Kasey that sometimes I feel like I don’t have the right to talk about this area yet. I haven’t been here long enough. But then I got her stamp of approval and was newly tagged as a Carolina Southerner.  When I think of all the wonderful people I have met here so far and all of the beauty I’ve seen, I am honored.  And I’ll happily wear that new badge with pride. <3

Want to learn more? To reach Kasey with questions about her ceramics or her debut Southern Gothic novel, you can find her at kasey@shopsouthbound.com.

* Affiliate links are used in this article to support the creation of high-quality content at no additional cost to you. For more information, please read our disclosure statement here.*

Taylor
Author: Taylor

Taylor, the founder of Eastern Wake Love and resident of Knightdale, NC, created the platform to celebrate Eastern Wake County’s community and lifestyle. Driven by the lack of substantial information about the Eastern Wake communities during her move to Knightdale, she wanted to create a resource for this beautiful area's potential and current residents and visitors. In her spare time, she’s chasing after her two young kiddos, getting involved in her community, and laughing with her husband about the chaos of parenthood.

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