Genre: Adult Horror
Year Release: April 18, 2023
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Books | Libro.fm
Read an eARC from NetGalley
Content warning: realities of pregnancy, child abandonment, adoption, miscarriage, suicidal ideation, death by suicide, child harm, child murder, self-harm, racist microaggressions, self-harm
Alejandra is a woman who is trapped in an ideal life that she isn’t sure is at all what she wanted for herself. A stay-at-home mother to three children, she and her husband recently moved to Philadelphia and a demonic presence adopting the visage of La Llorona haunts her shortly upon their arrival.
A horror that leans heavily into women’s fiction, this is a story about reckoning with generational trauma, the bonds that tie families together, and the resentments fueled by unrealistic expectations of perfect motherhood that threaten to tear them all apart, both literally and figuratively.
Alejandra is a perfect protagonist for this sub-genre of both horror and literary fiction. When we meet her, she’s literally hit rock bottom in a kind of PMDD-fueled breakdown exacerbated by a mysterious voice suggesting she end it all. Her thoughts are dark, especially in the context of her being primary caregiver to three children in an idyllic life that’s anything but. Her husband is a bit of a man-child, and her mother lives thousands of miles away. The loneliness is as haunting and tangible as the presence that starts manifesting in her house and beyond.
What makes this novel particularly interesting is the way Castro weaves the stories of the women who came before Alejandra, including the mother she never knew and the ancestor who originated the curse. This is a book that also clearly loves the women within it and deeply respects and manifests the power of those intergenerational connections. It’s a hopeful thread, especially with where Alejandra starts in the depths of a depression that she needs to rebuild her self-esteem in order to dig herself out from. It’s not afraid to critique certain expressions of motherhood, but also honors the bonds that can be built between mother and child.
I found the prose in this one to be a little too straightforward for my tastes, but La Llorona’s grotesque presence and Alejandra’s journey of personal growth more than make up for it, making this a compelling read both for those seeking a story of self-empowerment through the power of community and for those looking to be scared by supernatural forces.
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