Bit of a Halloween break from my practically-endless string of rom-coms, Jennifer McMahon’s The Drowning Kind is the kind of creepy, atmospheric thriller that I actually do like, especially when it’s this well-written.
October is kind of a painful month to be a non-horror-reading book blogger. All the reviews are of horror books, and all the memes are horror-themed. And I just can’t play along, because I don’t like horror. I hate feeling scared. I’m scared enough in my actual life (I see you there, anxiety disorder…).
But sometimes I do come across a book that, while not scary in any traditional sense, is still creepy and weird and kind of makes your arm hair stand on end.
This is that book.
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Invited and The Winter People comes a chilling new novel about a woman who returns to the old family home after her sister mysteriously drowns in its swimming pool…but she’s not the pool’s only victim.
Be careful what you wish for.
When social worker Jax receives nine missed calls from her older sister Lexie, she assumes that it’s just another one of her sister’s episodes. Manic and increasingly out of touch with reality, Lexie’s mental state has pushed Jax away for over a year. But the next day, Lexie is dead: drowned in the pool at their grandmother’s estate. When Jax returns to the house to go through her sister’s things, she learns that Lexie was researching their family’s and the house’s history. And as Jax dives deeper into that research, she discovers that the land holds a far darker history than she could have ever imagined.
In 1929, thirty-seven-year-old newlywed Ethel Monroe hopes desperately for a baby. In an effort to distract her, her husband whisks her away on a trip to Vermont, where a natural spring is showcased by the newest and most modern hotel in the northeast. Once there, Ethel learns that the spring is rumored to grant wishes, never suspecting that the spring takes in equal measure to what it gives.
A haunting, twisty, and compulsively readable thrill ride from the author who Chris Bohjalian has dubbed the “literary descendant of Shirley Jackson,” The Drowning Kind is a modern-day ghost story that illuminates how the past, though sometimes forgotten, is never really far behind us.
Dual-narrator books are tricky for me. I usually like one narrator so much more than the other that every other chapter feels like a slog. It’s extra dicey when the narrators live in different times, because I find that it’s hard sometimes to get into the individual stories because you are always waiting for the storylines to converge.
This one was different for me. First, I thought it was extraordinarily readable, with the plot clicking along at a good pace. Both narrators were sympathetic, and I was completely invested in both stories. Every time we switched narrators, I was so happy to see what was going on with my *other* friend! The plot works on a couple levels, too. I mean, yes, maybe the water is sort-of sentient…and if you buy that, well, the book is creepy and tense and a little terrifying. But even if it’s not, even if the drownings are just tragic accidents, the ruminations on grief are worthwhile.