Review of, The Drowning Kind, by Jennifer McMahon
The weather has taken a breather from melting us into oblivion and brought in some much-needed cooler days. Now, I’m not wanting to boot summer out the door, not by a long shot, but these lower temps are bringing thoughts of Fall. I’m thinking of crisper days spent walking along one of the many woodland trails as I kick up a rainbow of colored leaves. Oh, and those chilly nights, too. Chilly nights and even chillier reads. Oh, speaking of which, here comes one now.
Want to hear more?
Be careful what you wish for. When social worker Jax receives nine missed calls from her older sister Lexie, she assumes that it’s just another one of her sister’s episodes. Manic and increasingly out of touch with reality, Lexie’s mental state has pushed Jax away for over a year. But the next day, Lexie is dead: drowned in the pool at their grandmother’s estate. When Jax returns to the house to go through her sister’s things, she learns that Lexie was researching their family’s and the house’s history. And as Jax dives deeper into that research, she discovers that the land holds a far darker history than she could have ever imagined. In 1929, thirty-seven-year-old newlywed Ethel Monroe hopes desperately for a baby. In an effort to distract her, her husband whisks her away on a trip to Vermont, where a natural spring is showcased by the newest and most modern hotel in the northeast. Once there, Ethel learns that the spring is rumored to grant wishes, never suspecting that the spring takes in equal measure to what it gives. A haunting, twisty, and compulsively readable thrill ride from the author who Chris Bohjalian has dubbed the “literary descendant of Shirley Jackson,” The Drowning Kind is a modern-day ghost story that illuminates how the past, though sometimes forgotten, is never really far behind us.
Did this blurb lure out the scaredy-cat in you? Here’s what mine is purring about:
It didn’t keep me up at night, but the next time I jump into dark water I’m going to be a tad more mindful of exactly what might be lurking beneath my toes. McMahon paints a creepy scenario that spans generations, flitting proficiently between two timelines about supernatural occurrences at the same location.
In the beginning, at least, this tale seems all about perspective. Some say the water is cursed while other’s deem it miraculous. Is it delusion or reality? That’s what drew me in. I enjoyed the tension; the sense of witnessing a gathering storm when pregnant clouds are closing in. You just know it’s going to open up at any moment.
I wanted redemption for the long-suffering Lexie, and for Jax to get her head out of the tediously sterile textbook version of life and embrace the supernatural.
There’s a slow but steady unravelling of the mystery surrounding Jax’s family history in connection with the pool.
My only issue, and one that’s a pet peeve of mine, is the use of parenthesis. Thankfully just a sprinkling of them. Seriously! What is up with those things, lately?
I recommend this read to those who enjoy a spooky read with a pinch of classic horror.
Introducing Jennifer McMahon:
I was born in 1968 and grew up in my grandmother’s house in suburban Connecticut, where I was convinced a ghost named Virgil lived in the attic. I wrote my first short story in third grade. I graduated with a BA from Goddard College in 1991 and then studied poetry for a year in the MFA in Writing Program at Vermont College. A poem turned into a story, which turned into a novel, and I decided to take some time to think about whether I wanted to write poetry or fiction. After bouncing around the country, I wound up back in Vermont, living in a cabin with no electricity, running water, or phone with my partner, Drea, while we built our own house. Over the years, I have been a house painter, farm worker, paste-up artist, Easter Bunny, pizza delivery person, homeless shelter staff member, and counselor for adults and kids with mental illness — I quit my last real job in 2000 to work on writing full time. In 2004, I gave birth to our daughter, Zella. These days, we’re living in an old Victorian in Montpelier, Vermont. Some neighbors think it looks like the Addams family house, which brings me immense pleasure.
Check out her website and see what else she’s written: