A family camping trip rapidly descends into a nightmare. A raging thunderstorm destroys the tent of a couple and their son, and they flee the scene only to get lost within minutes. With neither parent noticing, the boy disappears. Their backs are turned from their son while they argue, and when they finally realize the kid is missing, the situation is well past dire.
The Tent is a striking novella on a number of levels.
First, it works as unnerving horror story. The atmosphere is thick with dread and a barely controlled sense of panic. The parents’ anxiety over a missing child is well described. The fact that the reader is aware that something other-worldly is probably involved adds a hidden layer of intensity.
Second, Burke is a master of portraying the inner workings of his characters. Much of the narrative is internal: emotional distress, physiological reactions, and trains of thought. Everything rings true, grounding the sequence of events in a believable reality. When the pieces fall into place with the stunning conclusion, the reader is helplessly drawn in for the full impact. Highly recommended.