Haints Stay by Colin Winnette

I bought Haints Stay by Colin Winnette on my last trip to Brazos Bookstore on a complete whim. A gorgeous cover, a mysterious title, and a guy who looked like he’d give great book recommendations holding it in his hands left me with almost no choice; I HAD to read this book.

“Brooke and Sugar are contract killers without a contract. Bird is the 13-year-old who appears in their camp one night, with no memory and palms as smooth as stones.

Driven from town after a bathhouse brawl, it’s only a matter of time before the sheriffs will find them. Before the cannibals and stampedes and marauders will find them. Before the past will clamber up from where they buried it, covered in animal skins and teeth.

In Haints Stay, Colin Winnette breaks down the classic Western and builds a bloody lean-to from the scraps. Brutal, surreal, and darkly funny, this bold new novel follows an ever-expanding cast of characters—each in pursuit of their own brand of justice and belonging.”

Haints Stay feels less like a novel to me and more like a glimpse into someone else’s life. It doesn’t seem like Winnette has an agenda or a lesson to teach; he captures the spirit of his characters, shares what the extraordinary days in their lives look like, and then lets them go. It’s beautiful. His prose is crisp and powerful, his characters are nuanced, and the story he unravels is haunting (which is fitting considering ‘Haint’ is a colloquial term for a ‘spirit or lost soul’).

I’ll admit that it was initially very difficult for me to get into this book. I stopped almost every twenty pages because I was either falling asleep (something which is VERY rare for me) or I just felt like I’d had enough. It wasn’t until around the middle of the book that I felt the story actually pulling me along. I wouldn’t let this discourage you from reading this book, though, because so many of the books that initially struggled to grab my attention are now my favorite books. Haints Stay isn’t quite on my favorites list, but it is a book I’m extremely glad I read.

These are a few of my favorite quotes:

“You put your hand in a lake, withdraw it, and the surface moves for a bit,” said Sugar, “it snaps back into place or it ripples on an on. Your involvement ends the moment your hand leaves the water.” – 37

“'It’s a graveyard,' said Bird.

'You’ll find that’s always the case,' said Sugar, 'if you pay attention.'” – 38

“It was funny to him, to die in this way. Alone and for no good reason.” – 79

“There was no shame in collapsing. There was only shame in letting fear or uncertainty give you pause.” – 81

“Haints stay where and as they please,” she said. – 179

“Bird stubbed his cigar then, and lit out for territory.” – 212 (I love that he ends the book in the same way The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn ends.)

Anywho, keep an eye out for the follow-up post and let me know what you think if you've read Haints Stay or plan to!

Happy Reading,