Caitlin R Kiernan
Publisher: Roc Trade
Sarah Crowe left Atlanta, and the remnants of a tumultuous relationship, to live alone in an old house in rural Rhode Island. Within its walls she discovers an unfinished manuscript written by the house's former tenant-a parapsychologist obsessed with the ancient oak growing on a desolate corner of the property. And as the gnarled tree takes root in her imagination, Sarah risks her health and her sanity to unearth a revelation planted centuries ago...
This story is a slow building atmospheric chiller that is difficult to forget about. I have to admit from the cover I expected an UF-style investigation into the house and tree’s history with some exciting action scenes to move it forward. Instead what you get is a slow burning haunting tale that takes place mostly in one location with a leading lady who is damaged and not particularly likeable. However, something about the story just draws you in and the further you get the harder it is to stop thinking about what is happening. Who is really haunted? The writer who can no longer write, the mysterious tree yards from the back door or the young painter who becomes obsessed with painting…?
It’s difficult to try and describe what happens in the story as for large parts of it nothing of much note does happen or perhaps a lot does. It is very cleverly written with the introduction by the publisher of the final book ever written by one of their authors before her suicide. That book is less fiction and more journal like as we see what happens on the run up to her last day. There are some asides into her recent past particularly her failed relationship which help set the scene for her lonely existence at the farmhouse as well as plenty of quotes and name dropping from other haunted stories like The House on Haunted Hill. This all really adds character and atmosphere as does the stifling heat of the summer and the repetitive nature of her existence at the farmhouse. At time the sweltering heat seems to soak through the page and the whole idea of a heat mirage with the Red Tree as the focus just sticks in your mind.
I was thoroughly engrossed by the tale and despite knowing at the beginning how it would end, I really wanted a different ending. If you like closure and everything wrapped up, then this book will sorely disappoint. There are a hundred unanswered questions and in the end you have to decide yourself if this was a ghost story or just the story of one woman losing her mind. Whatever you decide, the journey to the end is intriguing, captivating and one that will stay with you long after the book is done. Highly recommended!
Recommended for fans of Susan Hill and Michelle Paver. 9 out of 10