Do you ever start reading a book expecting one thing but then it ends up being something completely different? Well I have to say that’s exactly what happened when I first picked up Rachel Harrison’s Cackle. I was first expecting something a little spooky and thrillerish, but what I ended up getting was a story about a young woman finding her strength and independence with the help from a mysterious neighbor. Can you say GIRL POWER?!
All her life, Annie has played it nice and safe. After being unceremoniously dumped by her longtime boyfriend, Annie seeks a fresh start. She accepts a teaching position that moves her from Manhattan to a small village upstate. She’s stunned by how perfect and picturesque the town is. The people are all friendly and warm. Her new apartment is dreamy too, minus the oddly persistent spider infestation.
Then Annie meets Sophie. Beautiful, charming, magnetic Sophie, who takes a special interest in Annie, who wants to be her friend. More importantly, she wants Annie to stop apologizing and start living for herself. That’s how Sophie lives. Annie can’t help but gravitate toward the self-possessed Sophie, wanting to spend more and more time with her, despite the fact that the rest of the townsfolk seem…a little afraid of her. And like, okay. There are some things. Sophie’s appearance is uncanny and ageless, her mansion in the middle of the woods feels a little unearthly, and she does seem to wield a certain power…but she couldn’t be…could she?
This was my first experience with Rachel Harrison’s work, but I have to say that I really like her writing style. It was engaging and wasn’t as straightforward as your typical chick-lit style. I think she did a good job keeping the pace pretty steady throughout the beginning of the book before ramping it up towards the climax. There were only a few times in the middle that I felt were a little slow but I never lost interest in the story. If anything, it matched the sleepiness of small town life.
Here is where things got a little dicey for me… Annie. As our main character, she’s just not someone that I was able to really connect to. She suffers from a sense of self, independence, and mental toughness that makes it hard for you to want to root for her. Or should I say, for ME to root for her. Because honestly, I spent the first half of the book just wanting to smack sense into her. I have never been the type of person to tie myself completely into whatever relationship I’m in. Which is exactly the opposite of how Annie has lived her entire life (I’m going to say that’s affected by some daddy issues but the story only barely touches on it, so we’ll ignore for now). However, that is the point of our story. You’re not supposed to necessarily like Annie, you’re supposed to want better for her. And I did do that. And while I may not have seen any connection between myself and Annie, I know that a lot of people will. Then we have Sophie, our resident mystery woman that’s full of confidence, independence and resilience. She is the complete opposite of Annie and is someone that the young woman wants to become. Luckily for Annie, Sophie sees something special in her and takes her under her wing.
The plot here is what really shines. As I mentioned earlier, I thought this was going to be horror-lite and full of suspense. Instead, this is a character driven story about a woman finding herself after ending a long term relationship, while under the influence/tutelage of an older woman with “special” abilities. I loved watching Sophie’s influence over Annie transform her. She starts out very timid and holding on to her relationship with her ex, Sam. After their break up, Annie is lost and unwilling to replace him and the hole their relationship has left in her heart. She’s still believing that they will get back together and things can go back to the way they were before. It was nice to see her VERY slowly come to the realization that she can be alone and live her life without needing someone else to validate it.
I think my biggest issue with the book is that it seems marketed as horror-lite with a spooky mystery. That is completely and utterly incorrect. You might could say there is a bit of a mystery aspect as to learning who or what Sophie is and what her background is with the townsfolk, but that’s it. There are a couple of spooky moments but they almost seem out of place due to the tone of the rest of the book. Had there been more and if they were better integrated to the overall plot, I would have preferred that. But as it stands, they stood out too much and not in a good way. To me, this was a missed opportunity in really pushing the mystery aspect and building more tension. I think that change would have really elevated this book.
Final Verdict: 3/5 Stars
Have you read Cackle? If so, what did you think of it? Does it bother you when books are marketed a certain way but end up being very different?