Nov 122021

NPR: Nothing But Blackened Teeth is visually stunning. Of course, a novella is just words but Khaw’s command of language in service of an image — their brilliance when it comes to wedding image with emotion — is sheer perfection here, with gorgeous turns of phrase that deepen our understanding of the characters and their responses to one another. Atmosphere seeps from every page, and you really feel like you too are exploring this house, like this house is closing around you, too. You feel like you just might be able to notice what’s wrong, or where the wrongness is springing from, before anybody else.

I like the characters. They form a unit more because of shared history than because they would be friends in the present, which serves this particular type of story very well. Readers will get frustrated with one person’s choices and say “Why are you being so stupid?” or “Don’t do that!” — but so will another character. One of Khaw’s strengths is their ability to show fully realized, nuanced social dynamics.

This is a creepy, meticulously-crafted tragedy and frankly, one of the most beautifully written haunted stories I’ve ever read. As in the best ghost stories, the house is full of ghosts, but it’s the people who are the houses. We’re haunted by our histories, by the ugly things we want to keep buried, by the things we just can’t let go. Nothing But Blackened Teeth will linger with you.