So many different thoughts went through my mind while reading this novel. First, I resigned myself to read another contemporary thriller (not my fav) that needs to be reviewed. Then early in the book I thought “this is very well written,” more literary than bestseller-like. Next, the story became Gothic, a genre I do enjoy. Plus, it also has a noir feel which is another genre that I love to get lost in. So, to my surprise, I am pleased that I read this book. It is not until the very end of the story that I find criticism with the tale. But I am getting ahead of myself.
The story begins with a short chapter describing an old farmhouse and all the people that once lived there. The first family that we meet is a married couple with three sons trying to keep the farm alive in horrendous conditions born from poverty. The parents die in the house and the boys are left orphaned. The next family who moves into the house is a young married couple with a little girl. They buy the farmhouse for almost nothing since it went into foreclosure. The town’s people held that against the young couple. The new owners are city people who move to the country for the husband’s job as a professor at a small college. The “whodunit” begins in the first chapter when the professor comes home from work and finds his wife murdered in her bed. The three sons who first lived in the farmhouse are in all other chapters of the book.
There are no quotation marks anywhere in the novel. The author expects the reader to be smart enough to know who said what. I enjoyed this style of writing it keeps me on their toes. There are many characters in this book that can feel overwhelming, but they are tied together nicely, and I enjoyed each one’s part in the plot. It read similar to “Olive Kitteridge” by Elizabeth Strout, where the characters were interconnected short stories. In addition, the author adds a large dose of irony into her novel. The professor’s boss is a big fan of Emanuel Swedberg who is best known for his book on the afterlife, “Heaven and Hell” written in 1758.
The last chapter focuses on the little girl who is now all grown up and in her last stages of training to become a surgeon. The reason why the ending is a bit of a disappointment for me is that I thought the author was attempting to add romance into the plot. In hindsight, it may have been karma (if I explain it would be a spoiler). Still, all in all, this is a literary spellbinding page-turner that is a ghost story, as well as a psychological thriller. Was I displeased with the ending? Yes, that is true. Did I need to sleep with the lights on? Yes, that is also true. Read the book and see if you cease to appear.
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