From the author of the New York Times bestseller Wilder Girls comes a new twisty thriller about a girl whose past has always been a mystery—until she decides to return to her mother’s hometown . . . where history has a tendency to repeat itself.
Ever since Margot was born, it’s been just her and her mother. No answers to Margot’s questions about what came before. No history to hold on to. No relative to speak of. Just the two of them, stuck in their run-down apartment, struggling to get along.
But that’s not enough for Margot. She wants family. She wants a past. And she just found the key she needs to get it: A photograph, pointing her to a town called Phalene. Pointing her home. Only, when Margot gets there, it’s not what she bargained for.
Margot’s mother left for a reason. But was it to hide her past? Or was it to protect Margot from what’s still there?
The only thing Margot knows for sure is there’s poison in their family tree, and their roots are dug so deeply into Phalene that now that she’s there, she might never escape.
“I will always wish I were hers, and I will always want to be only my own. I haven’t found a way yet to make the two fit.”
I need to get my thoughts about this book down approximately within five minutes of finishing it because 1) it was feverishly dreamy, but still sort of languid at times and I want to keep the memory and the feelings as fresh as possible and 2) it’s super messed up, so maybe if I write it down images from the book won’t haunt me in my sleep tonight *shrug*
In the beginning, there is Margot. She is nearly eighteen, it’s summer break and she has no one but her mother. From this loneliness comes the specific brand of manipulation and abuse that her mother inflicts upon Margot, and I would be fine to stay there and examine that a bit more, because honestly they are fascinating, but not long after meeting them both we, along with Margot, learn that there is more to their family. Secrets that her mother has been hiding.
That’s how she finds herself at Fairhaven, her grandmother’s home. The neighbor’s daughter, Tess, wants to help Margot, she becomes both an ally and a tentative object of attraction for her. She wants to believe she found the family she has been craving for, but it’s impossible for Margot not to notice the many gaping holes in Gram’s story as secrets begin to pile up and flames are catching. From there up until the (bitter)sweet end, Rory Power keeps you reading with a building sense of dread and awe.
I don’t consider myself a big thriller reader, but thrillers like this one, tinged with just enough horror and the macabre to make you uneasy and give you a stifling feeling, I adore. And here, I adored the deep dive into Margot’s psyche. She’s both a product of her upbringing and a direct reaction to it, so in the end she is left to reckon with who she is without those negative influences she calls family. The macabre elements serve to underline the overarching theme of self-identity and being willing to do anything to belong.
Overall, I loved this book for the questions it raised and the nightmares it will surely give me.
Many thanks to Random House/Delacorte Press for an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.