Expected publication: 23 July 2019
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Ever since Lucy was two, she’s been on the run alongside her mother. She’s never understood the reason for a lifetime of paranoia, aliases, and lies. All she understands are the rules: never lock eyes with strangers, never let down your guard, and always be ready to move on.
Finally, after thirteen years and eleven states, their next hideaway seems perfect. An isolated, fortresslike place in the New Hampshire woods is the new home they share with its owner, a gentlemanly pianist, and his lonely daughter, Gretchen. She’s Lucy’s age and soon becomes Lucy’s first real friend.
But Gretchen and her father have secrets of their own—and an obsession with puzzles that draws Lucy into a terrifying new game of hide-and-seek. Lucy’s dark past is about to come calling. And this time, for her and her mother in the house on the hill, it might be too late to run.
How crazy was this book????? I think I still have vertigo from the nosedive into the insanity of Gretchen’s world and the events that took place in the last 25% of Kirk’s latest creation. After reading IN THE VINES last year, I knew I would be in for a treat, but had little idea of what exactly I was letting myself in for with this one.
I immediately liked Lucy, the 15-year-old MC who is narrating most of the story. Lucy and her mother have been on the run for 13 years, ever since Lucy was two. She believes her mother when she tells her that her evil, powerful father is their enemy and that she must never, ever try to look for him. As if she would even get the chance, because her mother keeps her strictly offline, and every time there is even the slightest danger of someone getting too personal, they do the midnight runner just to end up in another small nondescript town in the middle of nowhere. Now that Lucy is 15, she longs for normality, but most of all she wants a friend. The sort of girl she calls a “Jenny”. Loyal, kind, not asking much in return for a firm quiet friendship.
When Lucy first meets Gretchen, the daughter of their latest landlord, she knows that she is no Jenny. In fact, Gretchen is batshit crazy, with her penchant for puzzles and her way of creeping up on people and invading their privacy. But beggars can’t be choosers, and Lucy is sick of being a friendless girl on the run. Only that her rebellion may cost them all dearly ....
As with her previous book, Shannon Kirk immediately swept me up with her writing and carried me along in its storm like a tumbleweed, helpless and hopelessly addicted to the story. I was so invested that the house could have blown down around me and I may not have noticed. Because Gretchen is one crazy gal, and the setting is so spooky that it gave me nightmares. I LOVE this type of book!
Then came the 75% mark, and the story took a very unexpected turn. I admit that my “farfetched plotline” meter was immediately triggered, ringing all alarm bells. It was all so out there! But in the crazy nightmare that had been evoked by Gretchen in her apple print dress, it all still strangely worked. Is it horror? I’m not sure, though some may be freaked out by the final scenes. For me, it felt more like a fever dream, the sort where you know you are hallucinating but unable to clear your head. I wasn’t totally in love with the ending, but it was certainly different! I had to put a lot of kindling to my fledgling embers of the art of suspending disbelief, so if you are similarly afflicted with a total lack of that skill you may want to be forewarned. Once you have read this book, and have recovered your senses (it may take a day or two), make sure to check out the author’s website for her “additional information” link, which added much to the story for me.
All in all, GRETCHEN was one hell of a ride like only Kirk can deliver, with the same type of modern Gothic setting that delighted readers of IN THE VINES. It definitely delved into batshit crazy territory! If you are looking for a thoroughly entertaining book with one of the craziest protagonists and creepiest houses I have come across in a while, and an ending that you will never see coming in a million years, then this is definitely for you!
Thank you to Netgalley and Thomas & Mercer for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.