A city couple trades their fast-paced lifestyle for rural Vermont, running headlong into a few ghosts along the way.
When her father dies, Helen convinces her husband, Nate, that they should quit their jobs and move to the country to live simpler, more self-sustaining lives. So they buy a plot of land outside a small town and begin building their dream house. Despite the unfriendly reactions of suspicious townspeople, Helen feel like she’s found a true home—but someone else already calls this land home. Nearly a century before, Hattie Breckenridge was hanged here for practicing witchcraft; her daughter, Jane, disappeared the same day and was never seen again. When Helen starts finding artifacts that all have some connection to the Breckenridge family, she also, not coincidentally, begins to see their ghosts. Meanwhile, Nate spends more and more time chasing an elusive white deer. As Helen bonds with Olive, a local teenager who has lost her mother, and learns more and more of the Breckenridge history, she realizes that the ghosts are there with a message, though perhaps they want something even more. The setup is familiar—secretive small-town residents with their own painful history resent the influence of outsiders—and the early part of the novel lays the foundation for a successful ghost story. Hattie has good reason to want revenge on the town, and maybe Helen will be her conduit. As McMahon's (Burntown, 2017, etc.) novel develops, though, the haunting atmosphere dissipates. The ghosts hardly constitute a presence once Olive’s story becomes the driving force for the plot. Of course the ghosts are merely window dressing in the end; it’s us humans who are really scary. (Who knew?)
Too much wide-eyed sentimentality; not enough creepy malevolence.