Don't Breathe a Word by Jennifer McMahon
Author: Jennifer McMahon
Genre: Fiction (Literary Thriller / Supernatural / Vermont)
Publisher/Publication Date: Harper Paperbacks (May 17, 2011)
Source: TLC Book Tours
Rating: Liked a whole lot. Almost love.
Did I finish?: You couldn't have stopped me if you tried.
One-sentence summary: Childhood fantasy and adult reality collide when a woman and her boyfriend are led to believe they'll be reunited with his sister who disappeared as a child fifteen years ago.
Reading Challenges: None.
Do I like the cover?: YES! How creepy is it?! It's so perfect for the story and is super eye-catching.
I'm reminded of...: Sarah Dunant, Carol Goodman, Mary Robinette Kowal, Shirley Jackson
First line: Hotter than hot, no air-conditioning, sweat pouring down in rivers, the Magic Fingers motel bed vibrating beneath her, Mr. Ice Cream doing his thing above.
Did... I actually have problems going to sleep while reading this? YES. The creepy factor is amazing. Best shivery-up-the-back feeling ever.
Am... I still talking about this book and chewing over it despite finishing it days ago?: YES. Seriously, the mood setting is just great.
Did... this book feel very New England-y to me?: YES, but it might just be that since the author lives in Vermont, I'm convinced I can see the influence -- and I think the setting-as-character is what made the story feel a bit Shirley Jackson-ish to me.
Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow absolutely but own if you can -- you'll want to lend it out to everyone you meet so you can have people to squeal and gush with about the crazy twists!
Why did I get this book?: I think I mistook this book for being straight-up paranormal and so it was a delicious surprise to find it was more of a thriller (literary thriller, according to the back cover blurb).
Review: To put it bluntly, I had a great time with this book. Every chapter ended with a literal gasp-out-loud moment, the characters were totally real, and the creepiness of this book insidious and addictive. This was one of the most engrossing seven days I've had with a book in a long while, and the only reason it took me so long to read was that I a) couldn't read it at night without freaking myself out and b) wanted to prolong the pleasure.
I hesitate to say much more because the story moves so quickly -- alternating chapters between now and fifteen years ago, leading up to the day when the girl disappears -- and I don't want to give away a thing. I will admit, however, that for a while, the heroine Phoebe and I had a rocky relationship which impeded my enjoyment a smidgen. I found her a bit aggravating and self-destructive and it wasn't until I realized she was displaying some classic ACOA (Adult Child of Alcoholic) behavior that I felt more sympathetic.
All the characters in the book felt very real, even the secondary characters, and it was easy to keep track of the cast (not enormous, but large). The writing is so effortless, you race along (thanks to the pacing, too) and the next thing you know, you're halfway through the book and it's getting dark. I think this would be an absolutely perfect read for the summer. McMahon was a new-to-me author so I'm very excited to pick up her other three books -- I feel a summertime fling coming on!
*** *** ***
I'm very excited that the publisher is offering a copy of Don't Breathe a Word to a lucky reader! Just comment on this entry with an email (or another way to get a hold of you) to be entered. Closes 6/10, open to US/CA. Please stop by on June 7 for my Q&A with Jennifer McMahon and another chance to enter!