Saturday, February 13, 2016

Book Review: The Evening Spider

Sharon Long is with us today to talk about Emily Arsenault's newest novel. 

The Evening Spider, published by William Morrow, was released on January 26th and is Emily's, fifth book. 

The main characters, Frances Barnett and Abby Bernacki, are two haunted young mothers living in the same house in two different centuries. After reading that sentence, I was hooked and could not wait to read this suspenseful novel with a ghostly touch.   

The story is told in alternative chapters from Abby’s point of view in 2014 and Frances’ point of view in 1885. What is interesting to note, is that both women are talking about the same days in December but 129 years apart.

The narrative begins with a newspaper article from 1878 about the death of a 22-year-old woman in Hartford, Connecticut. 

Next we meet Abby in 1998 while in college at the moment she realizes her roommate is dead. Skip forward 16 years to 2014 and Abby is now married with a five-month-old baby. It is early in the morning and she hears the sound of “Ssssh” coming from the baby monitor followed by her daughter, Lucy’s cry. Abby lays in bed for a minute thinking her husband is with the baby, soon realizes that her husband is lying next to her. So who is in with Lucy? Abby runs and picks up the baby from her crib. No one else is in the room. 

Frances Barnett is stuck in a lunatic hospital in Massachusetts in late 1885 and his telling her brother how she got there. Through her retelling, the reader learns what has transpired since the birth of Frances’ own daughter and why she is now in a mental institution. She also tells her brother about her obsession with the famous murder trial of 1878 and how that impacted Frances and her husband, one of the prosecuting attorneys.

In 2014, Abby is starting to experience more and more unusual things happening in her home. She goes to the local historical society to try and gather information about the former owners. After researching, Abby discovers that Frances Barnett and her husband were the original owners. Abby finds what appears at first glance to be a recipe book of Frances Barnett, however, upon reading it further she discovers it is Frances journal. Through the journal, Abby learns what happened to Frances. 

I was compelled, like Abby to find out what drove Frances to the brink of sanity. I wound up fixated on the 1878 trial, just like Frances. This book is written in first person in both points of view and includes letters, journal and newspaper entities adding a sense of reality to each woman’s story. Emily mentions in her author’s notes, the 1878 murder and trial of the 22-year woman as well as the lunatic hospital where Frances resides are both historical facts. I read this tale of two woman’s sanity in a day and totally loved it. I highly recommend this novel. 

This book was provided to Mystery Playground by William Morrow, the publisher. The review is fair and independent. 

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