Sydney author Yolanda Sfetsos explores profound loss, guilt and fear in this horror
novella. The story features elements of cosmic horror, body horror and dark fairytale,
and a novella is the perfect format for it.

The short, sharp punch of only 120 pages keeps the story tightly focused as we
follow Kae, the mother of 16-year-old Molly Roscoe, who disappeared into the woods
over a year ago. Now Molly has returned, but she’s different and, over the course of
four days, Kae feels her world rapidly disintegrating in the face of an unspeakable

Sfetsos uses horror to explore the shifting relationship between mother and
daughter during adolescence. Kae’s initial joy that her daughter is found quickly turns
to alarm as she realises Molly is no longer the happy teen that she once knew. The
reader feels this deterioration through Kae’s eyes: the guilt she feels at not being able
to save her daughter compounded by the fear she feels at barely recognising her when
she returns.

The setting of a small rural town in the US feels like it should be clichéd, but
Sfetsos keeps it fresh, using the small town trope as an effective backdrop to the story
as it unfolds. The usually safe community where everyone knows everyone is
suddenly sinister, from Molly’s initial disappearance—how can a 16-year-old just
vanish in such a familiar place?—through to the terror Kae feels when none of the
people she knows can help her.

The story ends on a sinister note, a series of twists and revelations that unfold so
quickly you’ll miss them if you blink.

This novel is a little jarring after the slower build-up of the first two thirds of the
book, when the cosmic horror elements and Kae’s state of mind have you second guessing
everything. The payoff is that readers learn the more complicated story of
what’s happening to Molly, and everything wraps up neatly in a bow by the final

Suffer the Darkness is a small book that packs a hefty punch. It draws upon
parental fears, and the instinctual terror there is something dark lurking in the woods,
coming to take your children…

This review first appeared in Aurealis magazine, issue #164.

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