"Here be magic birds, killer swarms, tepid wells, glamor magic, hags, and the blackest magic of all: memory."
I was quite excited for this book because a few years back I read his 2014 novel Neverhome for Writers & Books' Turning Pages Readers Circle, and it was a great read! This one was a little more convoluted, story-wise, but still quite captivating, and Laird's beautiful, lyrical writing style is present as well.
The book combines psychological horror with common fairytale elements - but, like, the original, dark Grimm's tales. The ones with murders and kidnappings and witches and body parts being cut off. It all starts with a woman living in colonial New England with her husband and son. She goes for a walk, then goes missing in the woods. Maybe. Did she leave on purpose, or was she taken? While she's in the forest she meets some mysterious characters - like Captain Jane, Eliza, Granny Someone, and Red Boy - and... very strange things happen to and around her. It's actually quite difficult to write about this book without giving things away, and it's definitely better to go in without a lot of knowledge of the characters already. But at one point there is a flying aircraft made of human skin and bones. That are maybe still alive?
Honestly, this book was pretty confusing and very bizarre, and yet I found it engrossing. I actually think this would be a great book for a book club discussion - because there are so many themes and references throughout, and I think it would be a lot of fun to pick apart and analyze, like the literary trope of "Maiden, Mother, Crone."
I do think it's interesting that Hunt chooses to tell his stories from a female perspective - in this one, as well as in Neverhome. That can be a turn-off for me when I see a book's description and their author, and yet I didn't find anything particularly annoying or disturbing in the character depictions here (I mean with regards to a female character being written by a male... there are definitely some disturbing images in the book itself!).
I'd definitely recommend this book if you like horror and fairytales. It's spooky, and descends into a kind of madness pretty early on. If you like the idea of getting lost in the woods with witches (Blair Witch Project, anyone?), you'll love this.
UP NEXT: Name All the Animals, by Alison Smith
I'm reading this for my book club, the Book Thieves. We meet over Zoom next week Thursday, September 3 from 7-8pm, and the author will be joining us for the latter half of our meeting. Let me know if you want to attend!