Knopf. Aug. 2021. 352p. ISBN 9780525657385. $27. HORROR
World Fantasy Award and Shirley Jackson Award winner Gregory (We Are All Completely Fine) is back with a new thriller set in the backwoods of Tennessee in the 1930s. There are time jumps back and forward as the narrators of each chapter reveal different parts of the story, about a family’s painful dynamics and a secret that festers inside them for years. The protagonist, Stella, is gritty and takes no guff but also has a Jackson-esque mystery that will make readers question who their sympathies should go to. The family is run through with undercurrents of oppressive Christianity and patriarchy, aimed mostly at Stella and her women relatives who are viewed as “heathens.” Each of them writes a diary (titled like books of the Bible) that enhances the cryptic family mysteries, involving dark caves, false prophets, and men who rewrite women’s narratives.
VERDICT This noir thriller with horror elements strongly calls to mind the work of Hank Early crossed with Cormac McCarthy. It is a slow burn that takes its time to unfurl but makes a lasting impression. Fans of the first and third seasons of the television series True Detective will also enjoy this dark, somber tale with all of its sinister elements.
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