Publisher: Doubleday (April, 2019)
Kindle edition: $12.99
Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel
Vermont: May 19, 1924. Hattie Breckenridge knew she was special at an early age. She heard things from her doll, messages and warnings. When her predictions came true, everyone started looking at her with suspicion and wariness. On this day, her inner voice told her: “They’re coming for you, run!”
She’d tried to warn the townspeople that something bad would happen at school that day, but they didn’t listen. Now the worst had happened, and the people she’d known all her life, men and women who’d come to her for guidance, for readings that could put them in touch with their dearly departed, were coming for her with hatred and malice in their hearts. She hid her daughter Jane in the root cellar, all that was left of her parents’ home after a deadly fire. Summoning up her dignity, she faced the lynch mob in her yard. Her attempts to reason with them failed. Hattie Breckenridge’s life ended that day at the end of a rope tied to a tall oak tree.
Present day. Helen and Nate had decided to leave the city for a quieter, simpler life in the country. An inheritance from her father allowed them to give up their jobs as middle school teachers, buy acreage in rural Vermont, and build their dream house from the ground up. To their surprise, the neighbors treated them with rudeness or ignored them completely. The land, they discovered, had belonged to the notorious Hattie Breckenridge, who’d been hanged as a witch a century ago. She was said to walk across the bog where her bones lay, luring unwary folks to their deaths. Whenever anything bad happened, it was blamed on Hattie. Now they had stirred her up again, and the bad things begin again.
Despite the less than warm welcome, the young couple carried on with their plans. Their love and strength together would see them through: or so they thought. Living in a dilapidated trailer on the property, they spent their days building their dream. The project did not run as smoothly as they’d hoped. Items went missing: money, cell phones, building materials. A creepy bundle was left at their door. When they reported one particularly distressing event to the police, they were laughed at, their concerns dismissed. It was obvious that their grand adventure would not end well.
Not far away, a young neighbor watched the progress with dismay. Olive knew that most of the city slickers left when they got tired of the quiet and the lack of amenities, but some stayed. What if they found Hattie’s treasure, the treasure she and her mother had searched for since she was small? Even though her mother had left her, run away with a lover, Olive kept looking. If she found it, surely her mother would return.
The stories of the young couple and Olive run parallel, with circumstance bringing their paths ever closer. The house building stalled, money became tight, and the two lovers began arguing and sniping at each other. Helen, a historian, was drawn deeper into the history of her land and its original owner. Her growing obsession was matched by Nate’s preoccupation with the wildlife, especially the white doe that eluded him time and time again.
When Riley, a much tattooed, blue haired, free spirit, showed up with her niece to lend a hand with the construction, things began to go better. Helen saw her as a much-needed friend, one who supported her interest in the spirit world. Nate saw her as a threat.
THE INVITED is a first-class ghost story, with a twisty, turny plot guaranteed not to go the way the reader expects. The characters are multi-dimensional, coming alive on the page. The beauty of rural Vermont, and the darkness that lurks in its forests, are an intricate part of the story. This is a page turner that should not be started at night.
Jennifer McMahon is the author of nine novels, including two New York Times bestsellers. Highly recommended.
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