From the author of The Uninvited comes a haunting historical novel with a compelling mystery at its core. A young child psychologist steps off a train, her destination a foggy seaside town. There, she begins a journey causing her to question everything she believes about life, death, memories, and reincarnation.
In 1925, Alice Lind steps off a train in the rain-soaked coastal hamlet of Gordon Bay, Oregon. There, she expects to do nothing more difficult than administer IQ tests to a group of rural schoolchildren. A trained psychologist, Alice believes mysteries of the mind can be unlocked scientifically, but now her views are about to be challenged by one curious child.
Seven-year-old Janie O’Daire is a mathematical genius, which is surprising. But what is disturbing are the stories she tells: that her name was once Violet, she grew up in Kansas decades earlier, and she drowned at age nineteen. Alice delves into these stories, at first believing they’re no more than the product of the girl’s vast imagination. But, slowly, Alice comes to the realization that Janie might indeed be telling a strange truth.
Alice knows the investigation may endanger her already shaky professional reputation, and as a woman in a field dominated by men she has no room for mistakes. But she is unprepared for the ways it will illuminate terrifying mysteries within her own past, and in the process, irrevocably change her life.
After reading The Uninvited a while back, was I eager to read more from Cat Winters and getting a chance to read Yesternight her new novel made me very happy. So, happy that I moved it up quickly in my TBR mountain. The idea of the book sounded fantastic, with a young woman, Alice Lind, arriving on a little coastal hamlet to test children's IQ. And, there she finds a mystery, a child that may be a reincarnation of a woman that dead some years before. But, could this really be the truth? And, why does this spark a feeling of familiarity in Alice Lind?
I think this book started off great, I loved the idea of a little girl that could be the reincarnation of a woman that dead years ago. And, I was curious to see how it all would turn out. Would Alice find out the truth, and also would she herself find out what really sparked an event from when she was a child and hurt some other children?
As much as I enjoyed reading this book did it not engross me as much as The Uninvited had done. Somewhere along the way the story just turned in a direction I was not nearly interested in reading about as the mystery with the little girl, Janie O'Daire,and the question of reincarnation. One can say that when the story took the turn and I found out what Yesternight meant was the turning point to where I found the book didn't interest me as much as it had before. However, it was still good, it just felt like the whole Janie O'Daire story was dropped and suddenly it was all about Alice Lind and her memories. And, I just didn't find that as intriguing to rad about. The ending was interesting, but I can't help feeling that it was a bit obvious in a way, and I also felt that I never really got a good closer to the Janie O'Daire mystery. I mean, what happened next with her? I was more curious to find out about her and what would happen next for her than Alice Lind's problem. But, I guess that's just me.
So, this was not as good as the Uninvited. But, still a pretty interesting book!
I want to thank William Morrow for providing me with a free copy for an honest review!
The items that drew me towards this book were two-fold. First off, I have a deep fascination with stories that center around children who glimpse things that adults don't. The possibilty that there are things I'm not privy to, hidden in the world I walk through every day, is intriguing. Cat Winters also wrapped the concept of reincarnation into this story, which fully sealed my need to read it. I sincerely hoped for something with gothic tones, and a deep simmering sense of tension.
Which is actually what I was given a fair amount of throughout the first half of this book. Alice's arrival, heralded by a storm of massive proportions, started things out excellently. As she began to navigate the small town of Gordon Bay, and meet the rather interesting inhabitants, I was enraptured. Small towns tend to hold interesting secrets, and when Alice met Janie I felt sure that I was correct in assuming that was coming around the bend. With characters that were generally not at all agreeable, I felt sure there was something hiding beneath it all.
Then, the second half of the book began. Let me just say, I spend the first two chapters of this part flipping back and forth with confusion. It was as if this was a whole new book, although I knew it wasn't because Alice was still present. In fact, Alice is the main focus of this portion of the book and, quite honestly, the reason things started to unravel. Suddenly I was reading a story focused on rage, and an uncomfortable discussion of sexual agression. I missed Janie's story, and wanted to go back to it.
From that point on, things just got weirder and weirder. Alice's story felt cobbled together, and spiraled toward an ending that had me shaking my head in disbelief. I'm definitely not one to turn away from a surprise twist, or unexpected ending. In this case, it felt more misplaced than anything. It's not that I expected a happy ending, not at all! It's more that I couldn't comprehend the reasoning behind the particular ending that Yesternight offered up to me.
I'm on the fence, regarding this book. Yesternight showed me a lot of the parts of Cat Winters' writing that I love, but it just didn't live up to what I hoped for. I think if the second half of the story had felt as polished as the first portion, I would have been head over heels in love. Winters has made me crave more about Janie, and her past lives. That, in itself, is impressive! So I'll offer up three stars for this book, and a warning that the ending might not be quite what you expect it to be.
Before I get to my review of the book, I just want to talk a minute about the history of eugenics in the United States. I have never been taught this in school. I am absolutely outraged and disgusted that not only were eugenics very prominent in the United States, to the point that a lot of historians believe Nazi Germany's eugenics were inspired by it, but we (Americans) completely overlook it and pretend like it never happened when talking about American history. I have been in school for about 11 years and never, not once have I ever learned about American eugenics.
Nothing good ever came out of ignoring history and not teaching the truth. American schools should teach honestly about all of American history- the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Now, for my review:
Holy shit, this book was INTENSE.
Thank you, Cat Winters, for writing a story with diverse characters and making it a good story. As much as I celebrate diversity, it's not enough for a book to be diverse. It has to have a solid plot and complex characters. That's exactly what The Steep & Thorny Way has. It is both diverse and genuinely good and I applause Ms. Winters for that.
There's some heavy themes like racism and homophobia, and I appreciate that they were addressed. I'm very sickened at the idea of all the bigotry that existed in the United States long ago. Honestly, some of that bigotry still exists today but it was so much more blatant back then and it sickened and disgusted me that people could be so full of hate. Yet I'm glad that the author shone a light on the bigotry that existed back then instead of ignoring it.
I really like Hannalee, she's strong and resilient and so likable. Also like Joe a lot.
There's a lot of action and it was so exciting and also kinda scary. I didn't know who to trust.
Tl;dr version- A well-written historical fiction with a diverse and likable set of characters, lots of action, and deals with heavy themes. Highly recommend. I only took off a star because I didn't quite love it, but I still liked it immensely.