Intense, dark, and claustrophobic!
Zoje Stage is the USA Today and internationally bestselling author of BABY TEETH, WONDERLAND, GETAWAY, and MOTHERED. A former filmmaker with a penchant for the dark and suspenseful, she lives in Pittsburgh. Zoje Stage’s debut novel, BABY TEETH was a USA Today and international bestseller. It was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award and named one of the best books of the year by Forbes Magazine, Library Journal, PopSugar, Barnes & Noble, Bloody Disgusting, and BookBub. Her follow-up novel, WONDERLAND, was described in a starred review from Booklist as a “beautifully choreographed and astonishing second novel.” And with her third book, GETAWAY, the New York Times declared her “a writer with a gift for the lyrical and the frightening.”
Grace agrees to let her newly-widowed mother stay with her as Covid cripples the world, but past wounds come back to haunt her nightmares, raising questions about the past and causing tensions to rise.
The prologue blew me away. As the story developed, the line between Grace’s dream state and her childhood memories blurred, and it was unclear what was actually going on. I found those scenes the most disturbing, and could relate to having nightmares early on in the pandemic, which made the book all the more dark for me. Grace’s relationship with Jackie, her mother, was very uncomfortable and I often found myself jumping back and forth between feeling sorry for them while also suspecting each of them of the younger sibling’s murder. The flashbacks of psychological abuse and emotional neglect Grace endured at the hands of her mother were awful however, the fact that Grace was so unreliable threw her recollection of the past into question, right up to the last chapter. The pace of the story was steady, the suspense slower than I usually read, but the characters were fleshed out and flawed making it interesting to delve into. I particularly enjoyed the friendship between Grace and her friend, Miguel. The action in the prologue kept me turning the pages until the end, determined to find out how it all played out.
There are a few scenes that stick out to me but one of the worst was of Grace’s dream/flashback (I still don’t know) in which she returns home with her sister, Hope, after being injured playing on the street with the neighborhood kids. Jackie comes out to greet them, sees Grace bleeding, and completely ignores her needs focusing on Hope instead. After which she leads Hope inside, closing the door on Grace in her time of need. This is one of the more subtle examples of abuse that really got under my skin and I felt terrible for the main character.
I recommend to readers who enjoy slow-burning suspense, family secrets, and dark psychological vibes.
Published March 1st, 2023.
Grace isn’t exactly thrilled when her newly widowed mother, Jackie, asks to move in with her. They’ve never had a great relationship, and Grace likes her space—especially now that she’s stuck at home during a pandemic. Then again, she needs help with the mortgage after losing her job. And maybe it’ll be a chance for them to bond—or at least give each other a hand.
But living with Mother isn’t for everyone. Good intentions turn bad soon after Jackie moves in. Old wounds fester; new ones open. Grace starts having nightmares about her disabled twin sister, who died when they were kids. And Jackie discovers that Grace secretly catfishes people online—a hobby Jackie thinks is unforgivable.
When Jackie makes an earth-shattering accusation against her, Grace sees it as an act of revenge, and it sends her spiraling into a sleep-deprived madness. As the walls close in, the ghosts of Grace’s past collide with a new but familiar threat: Mom.