TITLE: The Thirteen
AUTHOR: Susie Moloney
PUBLISHER: William Morrow Paperbacks
PUBLICATION DATE: March 27, 2012
This book was received as an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley. Special thanks to William Morrow Paperbacks for providing this ARC for review.
SYNOPSIS VIA AMAZON:
Haven Woods is suburban heaven, a great place to raise a family. It’s close to the city, quiet, with great schools and its own hospital right up the road. Property values are climbing, and the crime rate is practically nonexistent.
Paula Wittmore hasn’t been back to Haven Woods since she left as a disgraced teenager. Now she’s returning to care for her suddenly ailing mother, and she’s bringing her daughter and a pile of emotional baggage. She’s also bringing, unknowingly, the last chance for her mother’s closest frenemies . . . twelve women bound together by a powerful secret that requires the sacrifice of a thirteenth.
This book was described as “The Witches of Eastwick” meets “Desperate Housewives.” The minute I read that description I was interested in discovering what kind of world I would find in The Thirteen. Unfortunately, while I think Moloney was able to hit some good notes in this book, overall, it was a bit disappointing.
What I really liked about The Thirteen, and what worked for me in the novel as a whole, was its utter creepiness. There were some really unsettling scenes and sinister imagery – fingers falling off, a woman slowly turning into goat, a house full of blood, whispers, ghosts and demons. Actually, now that I write that it sounds a bit ridiculous but believe me when I say that these scenes are well done and hit the perfect note of horror, leaving you a little unsettled yet curious to see what happens next to these characters.
Unfortunately, you have to read more than half the book to get to that point. Moloney takes her time developing this story. We spend most of it with Paula and her tortured thoughts of the past, her fears for the future, and her ruminations on the summer that changed her life forever. I felt like I had to push through more than 50% of the book (read it on a Kindle) before I felt like the pace started to pick up and we started to learn more about the sinister plans in store for Paula and her daughter Rowan. I think this book could have been much more effective had it been edited down so that the pace felt a little faster.
Paula’s obliviousness to the weirdness around her also bothered me. There are several scenes with weird exchanges with her mother’s friends that scream, “Something is not right here!” But Paula seems totally unaware of it. And Rowan, who is more tuned into the psycho flags being waved around, does not really push her mom to recognize the utter strangeness of Haven Woods and its inhabitants. Wouldn’t you notice an empty hospital while visiting a patient? And wouldn’t that make you question what’s going on around you? I simply could not suspend my disbelief on this point.
Finally, the ending. There is a bit of a twist there that I won’t reveal but I would love to speak to someone who has read this and get his/her take on it. I might be a bit dense but I did not fully understand the implications of it. It felt like it came out of nowhere yet it was a twist that I think could only be believable had there been some clues laid out through the story.
All in all, The Thirteen had a creepiness that was effectively unsettling but was too slow paced to really sustain an overall interest.