Brynn Wilder has had a terrible, terrible year. She has recently had to handle the end of a decades long romantic relationship, the loss of a close family member, and the dissolution of her passion for her job. In an attempt to reset and recharge, she escapes to the tiny town of Wharton on the shores of Lake Superior where she is staying in a local inn for the summer. Though Brynn is trying to escape from what has caused her so much grief and pain recently, she remains haunted by all she has lost recently and now also the very real ghosts of LuAnn’s Inn. I am going to remain relatively vague on the plot, as I think you will enjoy reading more if you are surprised by what unfolds. However, if you avoid ghost stories or stories of hauntings because they frighten you, you might still enjoy this book. The ghosts are not the main attraction.
Let’s get what I didn’t like out of the way. Transitions between scenes within a given chapter and even the transitions between chapters are one of those things that you never notice if they are done well but stand out if not done well. Unfortunately, the author, Wendy Webb, more frequently dips into the latter category. Characters suddenly appear or change location quickly without regard to the passage of time in such a way that I had to flip back a page on more than one occasion to see if I had missed something. That is really my only gripe with this book. The rest was marvelous.
One thing that I really loved about The Haunting of Brynn Wilder was the relationship and inclusion of Jason and Gil, two 60-something married gay men. They exist in this story as their own people. They are not there for the character growth of someone else learning to tolerate the LGBT+ community, nor are they included in the story as a coming-out narrative (mostly). They simply are. It was beautiful to see myself, a married gay man, reflected in a story that didn’t center typical LGBT trauma.
Another huge plus was the emotional punch the ending held. Reading this book, I couldn’t see the wind-up; I had no idea what was coming, but wham! It hit me in the end, right in the tear ducts. I don’t typically cry when I read books. Movies and TV shows, yes. Constantly. But I can only think of two other times that a book has made me cry (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and The Art of Fielding). However, I absolutely wept through the last couple of chapters of this book. And everything worked. The ending, though it was a shock, did not just magically appear. Webb simply did a phenomenal job of working up to the conclusion without revealing too much. I was the proverbial frog in boiling water, unaware that the emotional heat was being turned up.