Reading Level: Young Adult
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Length: 400 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Release Date: October 4, 2016
Stand Alone or Series: Stand Alone
Source: Edelweiss for Review
Rating: 2/5 stars
“From the author of The Uninvited comes a haunting historical novel with a compelling mystery at its core. A young child psychologist steps off a train, her destination a foggy seaside town. There, she begins a journey causing her to question everything she believes about life, death, memories, and reincarnation.
In 1925, Alice Lind steps off a train in the rain-soaked coastal hamlet of Gordon Bay, Oregon. There, she expects to do nothing more difficult than administer IQ tests to a group of rural schoolchildren. A trained psychologist, Alice believes mysteries of the mind can be unlocked scientifically, but now her views are about to be challenged by one curious child.
Seven-year-old Janie O’Daire is a mathematical genius, which is surprising. But what is disturbing are the stories she tells: that her name was once Violet, she grew up in Kansas decades earlier, and she drowned at age nineteen. Alice delves into these stories, at first believing they’re no more than the product of the girl’s vast imagination. But, slowly, Alice comes to the realization that Janie might indeed be telling a strange truth.
Alice knows the investigation may endanger her already shaky professional reputation, and as a woman in a field dominated by men she has no room for mistakes. But she is unprepared for the ways it will illuminate terrifying mysteries within her own past, and in the process, irrevocably change her life.”
I have read all of Winter’s previous books (I think my favorite was A Steep and Thorny Way) so I was excited to see she had a new book coming out. I think this is hands down the worst book I have read by Cat Winters. It’s fairly boring and a couple of twists that happen at the end of the story are eye-rollingly ridiculous.
This is going to be a hard one to review without spoilers, so I will put a spoilers section down below to discuss my issues with the end of the book.
I enjoyed the fact that Alice was a woman psychologist who was making her way in a male dominated field and trying to start up educational programs to help children with special needs. Her work takes her to a small town where a young girl named Janie claims to have had a past life as a girl named Violet. Alice is at first determined to prove that Janie’s claims are from some sort of trauma and not the crazy notion of reincarnation, but as she continues to investigate Janie’s claims her viewpoint is swayed.
Added to the above is the fact that Janie’s family is a mess. Her mom and dad have divorced and her dad has offered Alice free room and board at his hotel (which is also a speakeasy). Alice is trying to navigate all these family politics and still do her job.
The first part of the book moves very slowly and is just boring. I almost stopped reading it a few times and really struggled to stay engaged with the story. As the story continues the book ends up all over the place. We keep gettings hints that Alice has some dark secrets in her past and then Winters starts emphasizing how much Alice loves to have sex (this became an awkward and main theme to the second half of the story).
In the end there are just too many themes thrown at the reader and is muddles the story. We have the issue of reincarnation, Alice’s work as a woman psychologist, Alice’s quest for sexual freedom, Alice’s sister’s desire to be a man, a serial killer mystery, and Alice’s quest to help children through special schools. It’s just too much to keep a good focused story going on.
The end of this book really dropped the whole thing down another notch in my opinion. Not only does Alice believe that Janie really is Violet reincarnated she decides that violent issues in her past can be explained by the fact that Alice is a reincarnated serial killer. When her lover (Janie’s dad) has sex and promises to withdraw but doesn’t; Alice flies off the handle at the thought of being pregnant and murders him. Then the story skips ahead and Alice has a young child (supposedly Janie’s dad’s child from the sex/murder scene). Then Alice’s young boy starts insisting that Alice call him by the name of his dead father…all of this pointing to the fact that the man Alice murdered has been reincarnated into the body of her young son.
The whole thing was so twisted and contrived and didn’t match at all with the tone of the rest of the story. It was like someone else wrote the last couple chapters of this book. The idea that the lover that she murdered is inhabiting the body of her son if a very yucky feeling idea and just wrong on so many levels. Not to mention the coincidence involved is ridiculous. Additionally the idea of a murderous sex-seeking woman becoming a proponent for children getting educational help is just creepy and a bit nauseating…personally I wouldn’t want Alice anywhere near children.
Overall this was a bad book. It was poorly paced and just plain boring in the beginning. The end was contrived and didn’t match the tone of the rest of the book; it was just soooo ridiculous. This is hands down the worst book that Winters has written to date; I hope that she doesn’t continue in this vein in the future. Not recommended.