Catching up on posting reviews I read last year, but did not post.
In 1910 Michigan, Perliett VanHilton is a self-proclaimed rural healer, leaving the local doctor, George Wasziak, convinced she practices quackery. It doesn't help that her mother, Maribeth VanHilton, is a Spiritualist who regularly offers her services to help others speak to their dearly departed. But when Perliett is targeted by a superstitious killer, she relies on both George and an intriguing newcomer for help.
In the present day, life has not developed the way Molly Wasziak dreamed. Facing depression after multiple miscarriages, Molly is adapting to her husband's purchase of a new farm. A search for a family tree pulls Molly deep into a vintage web of deceptions, made more mysterious by the disturbing shadows and sounds in the old farmhouse.
Perliett fights for her life, and Molly seeks renewed purpose for hers as she uncovers the records of the dead. Will their voices be heard, or will time silence their truths forever?
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
The Premonition at Withers Farm is probably the first title by this author which has not been made into an audiobook. I can, in part understand why. It covers some very controversial content most notably Spiritualism, which was rising in popularity in the early 20th century.
The protagonist’s mother holds seances in her house for money and publicity. I will say that this content, although explored, isn’t glorified, or encouraged: it’s treated from a biblical standpoint as something people shouldn’t dabble with. The novel also goes into the reasons why many people were drawn to spiritualism, and how the inability to deal with grief and loss in a healthy way could be exploited.
The modern protagonist, Molly, was struggling with postpartum depression after several miscarriages. Except, she didn’t really understand what was happening to her or how the condition could impact her when she had lost her children before birth.
I was compelled by the central mystery of this story (Jaime Jo Wright’s books are always thrillers) which wasn’t predictable at all and the exploration of life, death, guilt, shame, and the secrets within families.
I did think some of the romantic elements felt a bit contrived or inappropriate at times, though. I’ve felt that about some of the other books by this author and I sometimes wonder if the romance is even necessary since her books are good enough as dual timeline thrillers.
That said, the modern protagonist is already married, so it’s not a traditional “romance” in that regard.
This novel also covers matters relating to mental health, in this case the complex and controversial subject of psychopathy. Some have complained that mental illness is used as an “excuse” for behaviour of characters, but I think this represents a misunderstanding of mental illness as whole. In the case of this book the idea that psychopaths are born not made comes into play: this is something which has been explored by psychologists, as psychopathy seems to be the only psychological condition which has no identifiable cause and may be genetic.
I’d recommend this title for all fans of the author and thrillers. I had some major issues with her last book which thankfully are not present here. It managed to be spooky and gripping without resort to graphic violence or descriptions of violence and returns to being more of a psychological thriller.
Thanks to Bethany House for approving my request for this title. I wasn’t required to write a review, and all opinions are my own and given freely.
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