My rating: 4 of 5 stars
My first taste of (modern) Southern Gothic literature definitely did not disappoint. There’s just enough magic for the escapism, adventure and sleuthing for the brain workouts, and the ice-cold reality of what power and a deep tradition of toxic masculinity and bigotry can do to a family tree. The characters all at once are both clearly defined in archetypes but developed enough outside of their literary roles to be real and believable, and each twist the story in its own way. Just when you think the story is about to go flat–when Jay is too insecure about himself and offers his limitless credit in exchange for Althea’s peace of mind and company–Althea gets elbow deep in the mud of her family’s mystery and handles it on her own.
What surprises me most about this is the latent feminism of the story; the scariest moments are not when things go bump in the night or when a grave is left unmarked, rather in the quiet moments on the porch between husband and wife, the words exchanged between men in the family when no one can hear, the horror of hearing directives and offhand comments that say one thing but mean entirely others for the woman whose ears the words fall upon.
Aside from a few moments of pacing where some things were editorially swept under the rug to keep up with the race to find the answer Althea is desperate to discover by her 30th birthday, this is quite an enjoyable read and I highly recommend it to new mothers or women who have either recently surpassed or are staring down thirty like a deer in headlights.