Genres: Horror; Thriller; Suspense; Mystery
Why I read it: It’s been on my TBR for ages, and it won the most votes for book of the month in a group I’m in on goodreads.
Who I’d recommend it to: People who like creepy, slow-building horror with minimal gore, like old-school ghost stories.
My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
What it’s about:
West Hall, Vermont is a strange place with a lot of ghost stories and legends, and a few too many mysterious disappearances. But possibly the strangest story of all is that of Sarah Harrison Shea and what her diary pages from 1908 reveal about her life and the town. Present day residents of Sarah’s home, Ruthie and her little sister Fawn, get sucked into the story of Sarah Shea as they search for their missing mother. As they search, they’re joined (for better or worse) by two strangers who also want to find someone. The secrets they uncover along the way will change their lives forever. The story is told from multiple perspectives, alternating between the past and present, to form a brilliant web of secrets, lies, murder, and magic.
I was totally caught off guard by this book, but in a really good way. I went into it expecting one thing, but what I got was exactly what I had nearly given up hoping for in horror novels. Well, except the ending, but I’ll get to that.
First, that cover! I remember when I started seeing ads for this before it was released back in 2014 and thinking, “That is an interesting, creepy cover. I have to check it out.” And then, of course, I didn’t. Until now, finally!
This book seriously creeped me out, and I’m so glad. It’s rare for me to find a book that truly makes me feel unsettled, but this one did. Almost the entire time I was reading it, I felt watched. *cue spooky, ominous music* I also absolutely blew through this book. I read it in a day, despite being sick, and I still want more. The combination of great pacing, evocative storytelling, and my inability to even guess at what was going on or what was going to happen, propelled me onward until the very last page.
I liked Sarah, and Ruthie and Fawn, but everyone else failed to gain my sympathy or favor. I think it’s mostly because they were featured less, so I didn’t get a chance to know them as well as those three, but a few of them I absolutely despised.
The ending, though. Ugh. I was reasonably certain this would be a 4.5-5 star book, until the last few pages. They underwhelmed me so much I knocked it down to 4 stars. It’s still a perfectly nice book, but the ending was a little too short and rushed for my taste. I also have so many questions, but I feel like getting the answers to all of them would take away from my enjoyment, so I’ll happily live in ignorance and just wish for a sequel to answer a few.
Overall, though, I really liked it and have added some other books by Jennifer McMahon to my TBR.