author: Sarah Gailey
published: 19 July 2022
publisher: Tor Books
buy/shelve it: Amazon | B&N | BookBub | BookHype | Goodreads
“Come home.” Vera’s mother called and Vera obeyed. In spite of their long estrangement, in spite of the memories -- she's come back to the home of a serial killer. Back to face the love she had for her father and the bodies he buried there.
Coming home is hard enough for Vera, and to make things worse, she and her mother aren’t alone. A parasitic artist has moved into the guest house out back, and is slowly stripping Vera’s childhood for spare parts. He insists that he isn’t the one leaving notes around the house in her father’s handwriting… but who else could it possibly be?
There are secrets yet undiscovered in the foundations of the notorious Crowder House. Vera must face them, and find out for herself just how deep the rot goes.
content warning: horror gore, murder, violence, torture
a few notes
cover notes: intriguing blend of pink and blood
keywords/phrases: serial killer, possession, violence
mood reading: in the mood for gothic horror
bonus points: intense atmosphere
anti-bonus points: the ending
This is a book that will often leave the reader reeling, fully immersed in the intense and eerie space it now takes up in the mind. It is a book that fully embraces the WTF feeling.
The story unfolds as Vera reluctantly returns to her childhood home when her mother, the same woman who threw her out at just 17, falls deathly ill. The weirdness begins the moment that Vera walks through the door. First, her mother is almost unrecognizable yet still as cold and vicious as ever. Second, the resident artist is strangely comfortable in the home and with Daphne (her mother), as if he belongs there and Vera does not. And third, the house itself. Strange things are happening within its walls, things that Vera struggles to understand.
It’s clear from the beginning that the trauma of her past has informed who she is as a person, not surprising as the daughter of a serial killer. The dynamics of the separate relationships between Vera and each of her parents, the relationship between her parents, were truly bizarre and dark, which fully fit the vibe of the story. They almost seemed opposite from what one might expect. Vera’s father was a serial killer; it would be easy to assume that their relationship would be strained, that maybe he’d been a harsh and overbearing father. But that’s not the way it was. And the relationship between Vera and her mother was fraught with emotional trauma from mother to daughter. Her mother was a strange, awful women who was tempestuous at best. Just as interesting was the relationship between Daphne and Vera’s father. As the serial killer, one would assume that he was the domineering one, but he often came across as meek. Hardly what one would expect.
It’s obvious from the start that there is more to the story, but it is revealed in little vignettes, leaving the reader to hang on every word, desperate to know what happened. The pacing is rather slow for much of the book, but in the end, it feels appropriate for the crux of the novel. And even if it is a little slow, the story makes up for it! There are so many twists and turns, so many moments that are deeply disturbing and bizarre. There’s just something about this books that pulls a reader in… and doesn’t let go. It’s unsettling, it’s provocative, it’s chilling. And I loved it!
The atmosphere… it was so intense, so eerie. It was so well done that I was there. I felt the things Vera did, I smelled the things Vera did, I tasted the things Vera did. I was there. The author truly captured the mood for the story, and it was easily as impactful to the story as any of the characters.
The ending is what kept this from being a 5-star read for me. I understand that supernatural themes often require some suspension of belief, which is appropriate. But there were aspects of this ending that felt as if it pushed the boundaries of that suspension. In a way, it almost felt comedic, which doesn’t really fit the tone of the rest of the book. It was an abrupt change for me. But I also feel like it is the kind of ending that will read differently for everyone.
There’s nothing so pure as a yawning pit of need, and that’s the kind of animal you were.page 115
It was the house her father build, and she needed to treat it right.page 246
He tried to build us strong and steady and whole. But he didn’t keep us safe. He didn’t know how to shelter us from all the hurt that was waiting, because he thought that hurt was the shape of love.page 320
This is the story of monsters and what they do to those who love them, those who fear them, and those who are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, Or, from a different perspective, those who are in the right place at the right time. Serendipity is just as cruel as it is kind.
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