THE BARTER by Siobhan Adcock


Email this review


A ghost, hungry for a love she was too proud to seize, haunts a young mother.

Adcock’s (Hipster Haiku, 2006, etc.) debut novel skillfully interweaves the stories of Bridget and Rebecca, two women a century apart bound by the sacrifices inherent to marriage and motherhood. In 1902, Rebecca marries John Hirschfelder, willingly leaving her city home for a hard life as a farm wife. But her wedding night leaves her cold, and her anger at her own inability to embrace her marriage begins to fester. Soon enough, John’s passivity and her barely concealed fury lead to fits of passion. Rebecca’s mother had died shortly after childbirth, so Frau, Rebecca’s father’s cousin, helped raise her. Of the many stories Frau told her, the one of her mother’s bartering an hour of life for her daughter’s happiness troubles Rebecca the most. She wonders what she might sacrifice for her own child. One hundred years later, in the same Texas farmhouse, Bridget sits in the wee hours with her 10-month-old daughter, Julie. Giving up her job to be a full-time mother, at least for a while, seems like a good idea, but she’s always so tired, which makes her fly off the handle at everything Mark does wrong. Of course she’d sacrifice her own life for her daughter, but what if Julie died? As Bridget considers this alarming possibility, the very air shifts, and the musty, earthy smell of the small stream running through their property rises. A ghost struggles to shape itself, looming over Bridget and Julie. In the days to come, Bridget scrambles to appease the ghost and save her family from its peculiar hunger. The metaphor of the barter, however, seems awkwardly imposed and too simple for the complex frustrations of women then and now.

A tale of troubled souls far too easily resolved.

Pub Date: Sept. 4th, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-525-95422-4
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Dutton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2014


FictionMOONRISE by Cassandra King
by Cassandra King
FictionTHE FATE OF MERCY ALBAN by Wendy Webb
by Wendy Webb
FictionTHE STOPPED HEART by Julie Myerson
by Julie Myerson