A chilling book with a truly creepy cover

Quite some time ago I was visiting my favorite bookstore in downtown Roanoke, Cantos, and found a book that so intrigued me, I had to purchase it (usually, I get recommendations from their fine staff, and check out their new books, as they pull some wonderful things that go one to be bestsellers quite early and buy occasionally). I didn’t read it for a few months, but when I did I was quite thrilled. The book, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, by Shirley Jones of the acclaimed and oft anthologized The Lottery, is a jam-packed, 146 page, psychological study. What intrigued me about the book were the small excerpts on the inside flaps. They read:

”My name is Mary Catherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance. I have often thought that with any luck at all I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had. I dislike washing myself, and dogs, and noise. I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenet, and Amanita phalloides, the death cup mushroom. Everyone else in my family is dead.

You will b wondering about that sugar bowl, I imagine. Is it still in use? you are wondering; has it been cleaned? you may very well ask; was it thoroughly washed? “

In addition to the wonderful psychological study, there’s also a great deal of delicious ambiguity, which I always enjoy. I have heard Mary Catherine, or Merricat, called the heroine of the book, but I would call her simply the main protagonist. But, I suppose that depends on how you define heroine. After all, Hamlet is a hero, even though, like Merricat, life as he knows it quickly disintegrates around him, a product of his own reactions. I wonder, as I’m sure other readers must, if Merricat is a ghost. While this explanation would partially make sense, I think what we really see is an intricate portrait of, as one Amazon reviewer described it, a “look at what happens when someone is unable to live in the world we inhabit.”

This is a wonderfully chilling and intriguing read, though it doesn’t immediately leave the impression of horror The Lottery did. However, the sense comes when the book is read slowly and spends time mulling over the characters and their motivations, it is truly chilling, and well worth the read. I highly recommend this little gem!

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