Read an eARC from the publisher
Content warnings: death of a sibling, brain hemorrhage, discussion of alcoholism, blood, gore, violence against animals (birds, the dog does not die), drowning. generational trauma
Mackenzie lost her older sister, Sabrina, several years prior in what seemed like a natural cause. But recently, horrible nightmares have been plaguing her sleep, including items being pulled from the dreamscape into the real world. Turning to her remaining sister, cousin, mother, and aunties for help, perhaps she can quiet the supernatural disturbance once and for all.
Johns masterfully uses dreams as both a narrative and a plot device to tell the story of trauma both personal and generational with a focus on finding support in one’s family and community for respite and healing.
At its core, this is a book about grief and regret, and how self-isolating under the false pretense of healing can lead to more problems than not. Johns does not shy in depicting the ways it can put its claws in people, regardless their interrupted sleep. The theme of finding healing through community and family shines strong here, though it doesn’t shirk away from the thorns everyone else carries on their own healing journeys. I loved the dynamic between Mackenzie and the women in her life, but also as importantly, her relationship with Joli whom she befriended upon moving away from home. No person is an island, and even when the supernatural tries to put wedges between Mackenzie and those she cares about, there is fierce love in the pushback.
In terms of the scares, the imagery is disturbing in a way that’s both dreamlike and incredibly grounded. Safety becomes twisted and taking control of oneself in a dreamlike state seems impossible. Johns does such cool things working with dreams as a literary device in introducing new details and providing further context for everyone’s hurt, not just Mackenzie’s. I’d almost go so far as to say that it’s the primary vehicle of the plot, but I’ll refrain from saying much else because that would be spoilers.
A treat for folks who enjoy their horror to explore the uneven path of healing from grief and folkloric scares, definitely not one to miss when building a horror to-be-read list.