A troubled young woman is confined to a sinister hospital in this horror story set in 1951 suburbia.
As the novel opens, June finds herself rooming with Eleanor, a girl who claims to be dead, at an institution staffed by eerily cheerful, monstrous nurses. June was admitted there following an incident in which she believed her parents had been replaced by imposters. Her home life has long been far from ideal, with June struggling mightily against her family’s gender normative expectations that she will one day happily marry and keep house. Alternating between June’s often grisly and drug-induced nightmares at the institution and chapters that recount the months leading up to her confinement, a somewhat compelling but muddled tale is slowly spun out that raises the ongoing question of whether June is mentally ill or is in actuality being menaced by otherworldly creatures. Gory descriptions of young women being tortured by procedures such as lobotomies and electroshock therapy echo some of the medical establishment’s most shameful history but seem to be played for their impact. A sweetly realistic romantic and sexual relationship blooms between June and Eleanor. The book follows a white default.
While meditating on a variety of interesting themes and featuring some genuinely disturbing scares, in the end this novel’s parts are more successful than its whole. (Horror. 14-18)