Possession is a common theme in supernatural stories – and a naturally terrifying one. We’re all comfortable in our own bodies, more or less, but what if some outside force took us over, forced us out, and then made us watch as they did whatever they want with our skin? Such is the terrifying case with Rose Sunshine Pilgrim, the heroin of Beth Winkour’s book, Sunshine in Darkness. Billy Pilgrim of Slaughterhouse-Five may be unstuck in time, but Rose Pilgrim is unstuck in flesh. When she was young, her body was taken over by a mysterious creature called an Intruder. Since then, Rose has been turned into a non-corporeal spirit, trapped outside her body and floating around. To make matters worse, the Intruder is being of pure evil, who uses Rose’s body as a tool to create mayhem. It’s a suitably horrifying start.
But when Rose is seventeen, the Intruder grows tired of her and moves on – possessing a newborn baby. Rose is able to get back into her body. Unfortunately, when she tells everyone that she’s been possessed by an Intruder for her entire life, she naturally seems insane and is sent straight to an asylum. To make matters worse, the asylum is run by abusive doctors and is under the control of people possessed by other Intruders, who enjoy making Rose’s life miserable. It’s a pretty terrible situation, but Rose is determined to persevere. She changes her name to Sunshine and starts to proactively try to fight back against the Intruders – saving the lives of a fellow patient who is possessed, as well as the infant her former Intruder who is taken over. Dealing with the Intruders means doing some dark deeds and manipulating their evil ways to Sunshine’s own ends.
I really enjoyed Sunshine in Darkness, due to the novel, terrifying setup and the sympathetic nature of Sunshine’s character. Even though Sunshine has to deal with a wretched situation, she struggles not to despair and tries to battle the Intruders as best she can. Winkour never reveals too much about the Intruders, which is a good move. They could be demons or alien or extra-dimensional beings. It doesn’t matter for the story and they remain shapeless, monstrous forces with sadistic natures – though some of them have deeper feelings that they don’t want to share. They make for good complex villains, and tough foes for Sunshine to contend with. Sometimes, her plots and machinations can be a little confusing, but Sunshine in Darkness still piles on the intensity and emotional struggle until the final page.
Overall, Sunshine in Darkness does a great job of taking a classic supernatural fear and turning it into a complex story with a courageous heroine. I urge everyone to give it a read.