A chilling ghost story that sets the innocence of childhood against the horrors of domestic abuse.



A young girl with an eerie doll, a ghost hunter with a tragic past, and a mother-daughter team of psychics cross paths in this debut horror novel.

As World War II approaches, 7-year-old Affinity Bell lives an isolated life in a Virginia mansion with her father, Taylor, a wealthy weapons manufacturer with “a knack for all things business, and for all things underhanded and treacherous,” and her beautiful but ineffectual mother Monica. An obsessive woodworker, Taylor is determined to turn his own wife into “a honed and polished dowel” by beating her unmercifully, and Affinity seems to retreat into a fantasy world with Mr. Moppet, a doll with strange powers that alternately hurts and protects her—although it ultimately can’t prevent horror from engulfing her life. Three decades later, in 1974, Tanner Dann, a young Californian writing a book about ghosts, arrives in Virginia, seeking to uncover the secrets of Bell House. He enlists the aid of Linda Cookmeyer, an attractive older psychic, with whom he has a romantic spark. Along with Linda’s even more sensitive daughter, Claire, the trio finds that there’s much more evil in Bell House than a simple haunting, and that each of them will be called upon to face their greatest fears and vulnerabilities. Wilson does a skillful job of weaving the complex fabric of his story, setting a captivating tone from the beginning with Affinity’s unnerving blend of innocence and calculation. The leap forward in time to the 1970s is equally well-managed, and the relationship between the pragmatic Linda and the quixotic Tanner provides a degree of grounding to the fantastic narrative. Readers might wish that this aspect of the story were a little better developed, as things falter a bit with the introduction of archetypal supernatural elements. However, Wilson manages to keep the suspense taut to the end, and all the disparate plot threads come together nicely.

A chilling ghost story that sets the innocence of childhood against the horrors of domestic abuse.

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-942981-95-4

Page Count: 292

Publisher: W & B Publishers

Review Posted Online: Sept. 6, 2017

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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