Title: The Hawley Book of the Dead
Author: Chrysler Szarlan
Publisher: Century, 2014
Reve has always had the knack to disappear at will; in fact, all the women in her family seem to be possessed of some sort of power. Yet when her magician husband Jeremy is killed during their Las Vegas show, she is powerless to stop this tragedy from occurring.
She’s soon convinced that Jeremy’s death was no accident, and when it’s suggested that she return to her family home of Hawley Five Corners in Massachusetts for her and her daughters’ safety, Reve packs up her life and embarks on a complete change of pace – and the hope that she can untangle a skein of mysteries related to her family’s past and a mysterious, magical journal that holds many secrets.
The Hawley Book of the Dead is a tactile story that engages the senses, from the ground up to the very characters who inhabit its pages. Author Chrysler Szarlan succeeds in evoking a world that blurs at the edges, and where past and present and other realms mingle in unexpected ways.
This is a story about a woman’s overcoming grief and coming into power, as she steps across the boundaries that separate her safe reality from a wilder, deeper magic that has always been her heritage. Reve must face an ancient enemy, who seeks to control her, and she doesn’t have the luxury of time in which she can learn to harness her legacy. Yet the Hawley Book of the Dead isn’t fast-paced; it grows slowly, organically, to give readers a vivid sense of people and place. It is the special sort of novel that refuses to fit snugly in any of the existing literary niches, which makes it all the more enchanting.