Annika Rose

Red Hen. May 2024. 264p. ISBN 9781636281209. pap. $18.95. F
DEBUT Full of eerie atmospheric writing and many unanswered questions, poet Johnson’s fiction debut both disturbs and absorbs. Annika Rose is 17 and living in the middle of nowhere in northern Minnesota with her widower father. Through short vignettes, readers experience Annika’s work on the farm and her awkward relationship with her father. When a new couple, Tina and Jesse, move in nearby, Annika’s and her father’s worlds are turned upside down. Everyone who encounters Tina falls a little bit in love with her, competing for even a moment of her attention. The local school principal and his wife get roped into the drama as well, especially when Tina gets pregnant and agrees to let them adopt her baby. As relationships fracture and the narrative begins to feel like a chaotic fever dream, Annika comes of age while observing and navigating her suddenly complex world.
VERDICT Inspired by Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby, though more haunting than terrifying, this strange tale leaves much to the reader’s imagination. Recommended for those who are comfortable with an opaque story that only gives glimpses of what’s really going on.
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