Frances Barnett and Abby Bernacki are two haunted young mothers living in the same house in two different centuries.Writing
1885: Frances Barnett is in the Northampton Lunatic Hospital, telling her story to a visitor. She has come to distrust her own memories, and believes that her pregnancy, birth, and early days of motherhood may have impaired her sanity.
During the earliest months of her baby’s life, Frances eagerly followed the famous murder trial of Mary Stannard—that captivated New Englanders with its salacious details and expert forensic testimony. Following—and even attending—this trial, Frances found an escape from the monotony of new motherhood. But as her story unfolds, Frances must admit that her obsession with the details of the murder were not entirely innocent.
Present day: Abby has been adjusting to motherhood smoothly—until recently, when odd sensations and dreams have begun to unsettle her while home alone with her baby. When she starts to question the house’s history, she is given the diary of Frances Barnett, who lived in the house 125 years earlier. Abby finds the diary disturbing, and researches the Barnett family’s history. The more Abby learns, the more she wonders about a negative—possibly supernatural—influence in her house. She becomes convinced that when she sleeps, she leaves her daughter vulnerable—and then vows not to sleep until she can determine the cause of her eerie experiences.
Frances Barnett might not be the only new mother to lose her mind in this house. And like Frances, Abby discovers that by trying to uncover another’s secrets, she risks awakening some of her own.
It's always hard for me to figure out a way to review a book where the writing was fine and pleasant and easy to read, but not extra-spectacular without sounding like I'm damning it with faint praise. In this case, there is nothing about the writing to turn a reader off, no glaring plot holes, issues with characterization or dialogue, or slow points. It reads perfectly fine, but there wasn't anything about it to set it above other books in a similar category. It was perfectly fine and enjoyable, but not something I'd gush over.
This, rather than the writing, is where the novel shines. I loved the combination of historical fiction, ghost story, and modern mystery. I also thoroughly enjoyed the characters and loved the way that Abby interacts with Frances through her journal. I also enjoyed getting the inside perspective on Frances and what was going on in her mind as well as what she recorded in her journal. It has a very New England gothic feel, which was perfect snowy day reading. There were a few threads I honestly could have done without, but none that were so distracting that it took anything away from the novel. I completely enjoyed my read and found it hard to put down - and it even gave me a couple moments of the good kind of fear, which is hard for me to find. I also loved the format of the book - the super short chapters and alternative viewpoints really kept things moving.
This is a great choice for fans of suspense/paranormal/thriller-lite. Nothing hugely disturbing happens, no gore, nothing very dark, but there is a hint of the supernatural and a bit of creepiness that comes with any haunted house story. It's not boundary pushing and I think most general readers would find it engrossing, but not upsetting in any way. If women's fiction and gothic ghost stories had a baby, it would be this book.
Thank you to TLC for providing me with a copy to review. Click here to see the other stops on the tour.