If you have been craving a feminist, witchy, creepy but somehow still cozy dark fantasy horror book, then here is a book for you!
Our narrator is Annie, who just turned thirty, and fresh off a shitty break-up (her boyfriend of ten years decided he wasn’t into it anymore and just wanted to be friends, and then made her sleep on the futon) she decides to make a change, moving to the small upstate NY town of Rowan, which is cozy and beautiful and adorable. Once she gets there, she finds the town to be friendly and begins to feel optimistic about her new life, even if the kids at her new school (she’s a teacher) mock her openly for her appearance, sensing weakness. She is very quickly befriended by an eerily beautiful woman named Sophie who gives her lavish presents and mothers her, all while the town appears to treat her with a strange deference. Annie is too caught up in the pleasure of having someone care for her to notice at first, but gradually things start to get weird.
I mean, spoilers for a pretty obvious premise, but Sophie is a witch, and the town is scared of her, despite that she makes their pleasant, beautiful lives possible with her magic. Behind the deference and pleasantries and over the top gifts (constant free food and liquor, for one thing) is fear and suspicion, and though she is at the top of food chain in the community, she isn’t really a part of it. There are really two main struggles for Annie in this book. The first is that she has to reconcile her own opinions of Sophie with those of the town, should she be afraid or should she continue to trust Sophie? Sophie’s actions could be taken at face value, but there could also be a sinister undercurrent there, and Annie is just ignoring it because of her loneliness. The second is that Annie is still smarting from her break-up, and Sophie has decided to make it her mission to prove to Annie that she is enough on her own, and not only doesn’t need her ex (who Sophie dislikes intensely) but any man in general.
The best part of the book, and I liked the rest of it quite a bit, is that about halfway through Sophie gives Annie a sentient spider named Ralph to be her companion, and Ralph is THE BEST. He loves being cozy and likes to steal people food and has his own little bed with a spider sized blanket and a mattress made out of a sponge on her nightstand, and he wears little hats in the cold to keep him warm, and he gets upset when Annie texts Sam and tries to get in her way so she doesn’t make poor life choices. This is how I pictured Ralph, except with longer legs because he likes to wave:
So anyway I really liked this and highly recommend it if you need a little feminist antidote to the world right now.