The Thirteen by Susie Moloney
Author: Susie Moloney
Genre: Fiction (Contemporary / Suburban Horror / Witchcraft / Human Sacrifice / Mother-Daughter Relationships / Motherhood)
Publisher/Publication Date: William Morrow Paperbacks (3/27/2012)
Source: TLC Book Tours
Did I finish?: I did -- drawing it out because it was such fun.
One-sentence summary: Twenty-something Paula returns to her childhood town with her daughter in tow after her mother is hospitalized and discovers that the town's elite harbor some seriously twisted secrets.
Reading Challenges: Witches & Witchcraft
Do I like the cover?: I actually kind of like it -- even though it has the potential to look YA-ish, the woman is clearly older, not a teen, which I love -- fits the ages of many of the 'witches' -- and it's creepy and snaky looking.
I'm reminded of...: Alma Katsu, Ira Levin, Stephen King
First line: Chick was an old-fashioned woman.
Was... it super disconcerting to read a character named Audra?: YES. I've only run in to another Audra in my whole life, and I kind of felt like someone was trying to impersonate me. This wasn't as traumatically weird, but it was very odd seeing my name!
Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy this summer or in anticipation of Halloween -- a macabre but gleefully wicked look at suburban 'witches'.
Why did I get this book?: I'm a sucker for black magic witches and suburban horror!
Review: This is the pour-and-bake brownie of books: easy, junky, tasty, fast, and fun. And like those insta-brownies, this book was kind of a weekend lifesaver for me.
My mother went to the hospital on Thursday and this book spent the weekend with me, alleviating two long nights sleeping in a hospital chair and two chaotic and stressful days. It was the diverting, engrossing, easy to dip in and out of distraction I needed. (This review might not convey my grateful relief as I'm still a bit sleep-deprived.)
Set in pretty, bucolic, suburban Haven Woods (in my head I made it a town in Connecticut, but I think it's sort of ambigu-East Coast), the story follows, loosely, two families: Audra, Paula, and Rowan Wittmore and Izzy and Marla Riley. Pretty quickly, we learn something is seriously wrong with the suburban royalty, the matrons and their families, but it's not until we're about 100 pages in does the action really pick up. (Perhaps my only complaint.) Paula's mother, Audra, is hospitalized with a vague, unspecified illness that makes Paula very suspicious; her daughter Rowan is even more put off by the odd way her grandmother's friends pry in to her life. The town's history is littered with horrible tragedies -- grotesque murders and shocking accidents -- that no one seems to find shocking until Paula and Rowan find themselves the focus of the women's murderous interest.
The writing style reminded me a bit of Stephen King -- parenthetical asides and vaguely stream-of-consciousness-y threads interspersing the narrative -- as well as the themes of the story -- the things we're willing to trade for our heart's desires, the secrets a town will keep even to its detriment, and I really enjoyed Moloney's exploration of mother-daughter relationships and parental sacrifices (in some cases, literally).
A perfect summer beach read, this is also a fun book to consider for October: creepy, over-the-top, a little bit gross (but not over-the-top), with a tiny bit of romance to add sweetness to the story.
*** *** ***
Learn more about Susie Moloney at her website. You can follow her on Twitter.
I'm thrilled to offer a copy of The Thirteen to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US/CA readers, ends 4/6.