cover image The Plastic Priest

The Plastic Priest

Nicole Cushing. Cemetery Dance, $14 trade paper (108p) ISBN 978-1-58767-933-9

An Episcopalian priest undergoing a crisis of faith is the dramatic center of this diffusely plotted dark fantasy fable from Bram Stoker Award winner Cushing (Mothwoman). For years, Kaye Ford—known to parishioners as “Mother Kaye”—has led the congregation of St. Luke’s in sleepy Owlingsville, Ind. Kaye’s husband, Charlie, is a professed pagan and Kaye’s own beliefs are a bit slippery when it comes to church formalities. With her flock dwindling at the height of the Covid pandemic, Kaye follows a recommendation from her diocese that she hold open-air services in a nearby park—which results in an unplanned encounter with a fey panhandler who challenges her to embrace a new reality that repudiates the beliefs and career aspirations that have guided her until now. Through sharp, incisive prose, Cushing insightfully delineates Kaye and her spiritual crisis in the novella’s first half. When later events move the story beyond the intimacy of Kaye’s viewpoint, however, the plot loses focus and meanders. Nevertheless, readers will find much to enjoy in this meditation on fantastic possibilities beyond religious orthodoxies. (Dec.)