WITHER by J.G. Passarella


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First novel, decidedly in the horror vein, by screenwriter Passarella, who carries off a series of familiar ploys with ease if little originality. Purposely dowdy Wendy Ward, the daughter of the president of Danfield College, is deep into witchcraft and works at the local occult store in Windale, a town about 30 miles outside the Ivy League aura of Boston and given up to witchy-named streets and stores echoing its witch-burnings 300 years ago. Wendy, a freshman, is supposed to be studying The House of Seven Gables, which features a witch-burning, but she’s after bigger fish. She goes into the forest, strips naked, and reciting various occult verses actually brings on a mild rain, and later on Halloween Eve unwittingly unleashes a coven of real witches. Meanwhile, eight-year-old Abbey MacNeil, bothered by knocks and creaks in the night, finds herself witchnapped and strung up in a barn. Also witchbait, unbeknownst to herself, is unmarried Professor Karen Glazer, who teaches a seminar on “Proust, Joyce, Faulkner: Architects of Memory,” is pushing 40, pregnant, and, like Hester Prynne, will not reveal the father (he’s Paul Leeson, the handyman who’s fixing up her house). Then there’s 18-year-old Jack Carter, who goes for a country walk with his girlfriend only to be snatched from the roof of a covered bridge by some kind of big . . . well, flying something. Jack, in fact, found himself flying, then dropped through a barn roof into what happens to be a feeding ground for three witches. Soon there’s an exploding cow and similar monstrous events before Wendy finds herself face to face with extremely ugly, vicious, seemingly unkillable nine-foot witches whose time has come to occupy new bodies—namely, Abbey’s, Wendy’s, and Karen’s soon-to-be-born baby’s. Never mention Hawthorne, Joyce, Proust, and Faulkner when writing a fantasy lacking moral force or styled prose. Unjaded younger readers, however, will find crushed eyeballs and a certain evil scariness slapped like fresh meat onto the page.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-671-02480-9
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Pocket
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1999