By Kelly J. Riibe
The dark back-stories for the players in Kate Abbott’s thriller, Asana of Malevolence, could all have their own novellas. Each character has a crippling past that continues to haunt them as they try to move forward in life in order to find forgiveness for themselves and the others who have hurt them.
This is Abbott’s second novel, and as an instructor of yoga she introduces and writes about the discipline in a way that makes it almost a character in itself. Through yoga, Sharon, Amy, Evan, and Sean were able to find peace from different traumas and begin a road to recovery. For them the retreat to “The Garden” was meant to be a celebratory excursion in which they could grow in their yoga spirit and find a calming reassurance to life’s dark side. However, upon arrival they soon realize the retreat is being led by a manic leader with cult-like intentions.
Phoebe and Moses are hikers on a backpacking trip along the Appalachian Trail when they encounter Sharon, Amy, Evan, and Sean trying to escape. Phoebe and Moses understand the feeling of loss, and immediately want to help these damaged souls who are fighting their past guilt, while simultaneously trying to come to terms with the hijacking of what was supposed to be a peaceful yoga retreat. It is heartbreaking to read that yoga aided each of these characters in processing their past grief and sadness, but then ultimately led them to a destination that offered only torture and fear.
The retreat leader, Larry, is a power obsessed man with an evil past. He will stop at nothing to control others. He feeds on weakness and vulnerability, which makes all those within Abbott’s story targets for his wicked plans. Larry’s relentless pursuit to make others serve him casts a long dark shadow over “The Garden” and the spirit of yoga.
“The Garden” is a rich backdrop to the story’s plot and Abbott describes it beautifully. The solitude of the area and the long distance of trails and wooded paths, cause the main characters to participate in an involuntary game of hide and seek with deadly consequences for being found. The characters must make tough decisions in their attempts to escape the reach of evil that is extending from what was once a calm and serene place. Very few locals live near the “The Garden”, but those who do prove to be worthy allies.
Unbreakable bonds of friendship are formed quickly in Asana of Malevolence, especially as the characters face acts of violence. The need to escape is urgent from the very start of the book. However, the ability to trust others is tough for many in this story due to their history of struggles and heartache. The characters grapple with seeking help that could ultimately put innocents in danger’s way. Throughout every chapter, a person is being tested, while having very few options in terms of survival.
Inner strength, and a little help from the paranormal, guide all of the characters in this page-turning read. Their quest to flee Larry’s control and also escape their own demons will keep readers engaged until the end.
Excerpt from Asana of Malevolence:
Sean had a rumbling in his left ear. He could feel the ground beneath him and the sun beating down on him. He tried to open his eyes but the light was blinding. He wasn’t in any pain. The last thing he could recall was someone injecting something into his foot. But he didn’t feel high, or like he was coming down from something. Maybe he was actually dead and the blinding light was heaven. But he didn’t believe in God. Something soft brushed against the left side of his face. He reached up and something bit his hand ever so gently.
He forced himself to open his left eye. It wasn’t quite as bright now because something was blocking his vision. He heard an unmistakable meow and closed his eyes as tightly as he could. Definitely dead. That corny Rainbow Bridge poem had turned out to be true. How else could Titus be there? Reluctantly he opened both eyes this time. Titus was still there, staring him in the face and purring. Sean pulled himself up into a seated position and the cat hopped onto his lap. He petted him and examined him closely. White-tip on the tail, one paw missing a toe and that terrible Titus breath.
Sean looked around him. Somehow, heaven was a dirt road in front of a double wide trailer. Funny version of Saint Peter’s gate, but who knew? The double wide appeared abandoned but suddenly the door popped open and an enormous woman with waist length grey hair stepped out, the little porch sagging under her weight.
“Are you God?” Sean asked.
For some reason, God found this extremely amusing. She threw her head back and laughed uproariously, exposing remarkably white teeth.
“Oh, no, Sugah,” she gasped as she tried to stop laughing. “Farthest thing from God is old me here.” Another peal of laughter.
She stepped down onto the ground and waddled over to Sean.
She peered at him closely. Sean wondered if she needed glasses.
“Mah name is Prudence. Whatcha got there? A cat? Cute looking thang but they makes me sneeze.” Prudence immediately sneezed twice as if to make a point.
“This is Titus.” He pointed at the cat. The entire conversation seemed absurd to him but he kept going. “And I’m Sean.”
“Nice ta meetcha,” Prudence said, extending her hand and hauling Sean to his feet with surprising strength.
Prudence looked him up and down.
“What happened to your other shoe? You only wearin one.”
He could only shrug. He was dead, after all. Why would he need shoes? Titus jumped off his lap and darted up the road and into the bushes. The cat emerged shortly with Sean’s other Nike.
“Well don’t that jest beat all?” Prudence chortled. “He a smart one.”
Her face turned serious as she asked him what he had done to piss off that no account who dumped him in front of her house. Prudence had heard the car but hadn’t ventured outside because she thought it might have been the owner of the double wide, come back to kick her out again. When she finally peered out the window, Sean was on the ground and a silver car was disappearing in a cloud of dust.
“I though you was dead,” Prudence concluded. “You wasn’t movin, hardly even breathin.”
“You mean I am not dead?”
“No, Sugah, you right here wit me. Live as can be.”
“Well, I’m supposed to be dead. That guy, he shot me up with something that should have killed me. I’m an addict.”
“Maybe that jest give you more tolerance. You bring dat cat wit you?”
“No.” He opened his mouth to explain that the cat had been his some years ago and was probably dead but he realized that information would only add to the confusion. Instead, he asked how far they were from Charlotte.
“Oh, fity, hunnerd miles or so, I expect.”
“Is there a bus, or a train station around here? I need to get back there.” He patted his pockets. For some reason, Chad had not taken his wallet or ID. Maybe he wanted Sean identified. He felt a sudden stab of worry for Mary Alice. He hoped Betty had gone to find Mary Alice when Sean hadn’t shown up at the agent’s office.
“My nephew, he live up the road aways, past where the blacktop start. He might could give you a ride.”
“That would be great.” Sean reached down to put his shoe on and felt a wave of lightheadedness so strong that he had to sit down quickly.
“You ok? Maybe you needs something to drink or your sugar low. Dat happen to me a lot.”
Prudence lumbered up the steps of the trailer and came back with a carton of orange juice and a box of powdered donuts. Sean gulped and chewed and he did feel better, although he was sure he would be crashing in thirty minutes.
“So, how far up to your nephew’s place?” he asked at last.
“Oh it fur nuff. I ride you up dere.”
She disappeared around the side of the trailer and then he heard the sputter of an engine. She reappeared around the side of the trailer riding an ancient motorcycle with a side car.
“Now make sure you brings dat cat wid you. I don’t need anyone else beggin me for food at my door.”
Sean eyed his chauffer. She appeared remarkably comfortable. Sean got into the sidecar and Titus hopped up beside him. Prudence tore down the dirt road, rattling Sean’s teeth. The engine belched exhaust but it ran fine. About fifteen minutes later, the dirt turned to blacktop and there were houses visible. Prudence turned into the driveway of a small white ranch. The door to the house opened and two kids ran out.
Asana of Malevolence is available now through the publisher at: https://mascotbooks.com/mascot-marketplace/buy-books/fiction/asana-of-malevolence/ and on Amazon here.
Kelly J. Riibe is a freelance writer, blogger, and full-time mother to three kids. She has been published in Nebraska Magazine, Heels on a Farm, MockMom, and is the co-writer for the blog:www.familyfootnote.com.