Back in the kitchen, Laurie located Dora Lorton’s phone number on the pad beside the phone and dialed it. It rang several times without answer, and Laurie was just about to hang up when the ringing stopped. Silence simmered in her ear but no one said a word.
“Hello?” said Laurie. She thought she heard someone breathing.
“Who’s this?” It was Dora Lorton’s clipped, businesslike voice.
“Ms. Lorton, this is Laurie Genarro. I hope I’m not disturbing you. Do you have a moment to talk?”
The woman exhaled loudly on the other end of the phone. Laurie thought she heard a TV on in the background. “What is it?”
“I wanted to ask you about the little girl who lives next door,” Laurie said, searching now for a sign of Abigail through the bay windows as she spoke. “Do you know her?”
“There is no little girl who lives next door.”
Laurie thought she had misheard the woman. “The little girl with the long reddish-brown hair. Surely you’ve seen her. She plays in the yard.”
“There is no girl who lives next door,” Dora repeated. “The Rosewoods live next door and they do not have any children.”
“Their last name isn’t Evans?”
“No. There are no families named Evans that I am aware of on Annapolis Road, or anywhere else in the neighborhood for that matter.”
Laurie Genarro has returned home following the death of her father, who suffered from dementia and ultimately committed suicide as a result of it. With her husband and ten-year old daughter joining her, she begins to start the process of claiming and selling the estate, one antique at a time. But it feels like the past refuses to die. She feels the broken memories of her childhood lurking in the shadows, hiding under the door to the room at the top of the stairs (where she was forbidden from going as a child) and pulsating from the broken and moldy greenhouse in the woods. The memories that she thought she had suppressed are rising up and she isn’t sure what is real and what is nightmare.
At first she attempts to write it off as an overactive imagination brought on by grief and guilt over the distant relationship she had with her father the last years of his life but then she meets her daughter’s new friend, Abigail, who lives next door and bears an uncanny resemblance to her own playmate from the past who also lived next door. And who died in the greenhouse in the woods when Laurie herself was just a child.
The longer she stays, the more uneasy Laurie becomes and the more wild her thoughts grow. She feels herself losing her mind, like her father. As an act of desperation to understand his last few months, she digs into his past (and her own) and uncovers far more secrets than she was expecting, each one more horrifying than the previous one.
What exactly happened to her father? What happened to her playmate from so long ago? And why does she feel like she has blocked something terrible from her memory?
Okay. HOLY SMOKES, guys. This book got me. It’s not a fast paced, quick burning thriller but there were definite times of chills while reading it. I honestly expected the basic ghost story from this, especially based off of the back cover and the summary on Goodreads. Mother finds daughter playing with new friend, new friend looks exactly like old friend of mom’s who died, wham bam, new friend *is* old friend and doesn’t really exist-is just a ghost haunting the house. Spoiler alert-that isn’t exactly how this book goes down and there is waaaaay more to the story than that. Every time I thought I had the story completely figured out, a new detail was introduced that opened a new can of worms. I was pleasantly surprised by the complexity of the novel and how it delves into the relationship between Laurie and those important to her: Her husband, her daughter, and her father. It also touches on her troubled past in just fleeting enough glances to keep you reading so that you discover more about her. This is yet another book where I don’t feel there are any real “heroes” to the tale and none of the characters are these fine, upstanding citizens, except for maybe the ten-year old daughter who is really just ten and doesn’t have a lot of back story to her. She’s probably the most decent character in the story and by that I mean you don’t want to hit her with anything for being a jerk. I find that the more books I read with unlikable main characters, the more I realize that I may prefer them because they’re easier to relate to. They don’t always make a noble choice or always have noble thoughts and it’s surprisingly refreshing. I really enjoyed this story, but it was rough. The secrets revealed in it start out rough and just get worse as the story progresses because Malfi pulls no punches. He delves into the mind of a man who is deeply disturbed and the daughter this man produced. The ending is no better than the secrets revealed. It pulls an “Inception” ending on you, leaving you to wonder what happened and how it truly ended, but also with the sick feeling that you know exactly how it ended and that it simply didn’t need the words behind it to make it a reality.
I would not recommend this book to anyone younger than high school. Ever. I’m pretty progressive with what I feel like I will let my children read and when but this is one that if they bring it to me even at fifteen and want to read it, I may have to take a moment to access if they’re mentally mature enough to deal with what they’re about to expose themselves to. It’s part of what makes the book good but it does make it too mature for most teen readers. (Sidenote: This is an adult novel, not young adult so it’s not wholly unexpected that it’s not appropriate.)
I’m glad that Rachel suggested this book to me for our “grand” finale of the month. It’s definitely a good one to end on and if I haven’t said it yet (I have), I recommend it!
Happy Halloween! Tonight I will be taking my little Bean out on the town as the Flash to gather entirely too much candy and keep him up way past his bedtime. Then I plan to come home, make some hot tea, snuggle up under a blanket and watch my annual viewing of Tim Burton movies to end the day. Hope your day goes exactly as planned!