About this book: (from the publisher) When New York journalist and recently bereaved mother Charlotte “Charlie” Cates begins to experience vivid dreams about children she’s sure that she’s lost her mind. Yet these are not the nightmares of a grieving parent, she soon realizes. They are messages and warnings that will help Charlie and the children she sees, if only she can make sense of them.
After a little boy in a boat appears in Charlie’s dreams asking for her help, Charlie finds herself entangled in a thirty-year-old missing-child case that has never ceased to haunt Louisiana’s prestigious Deveau family. Armed with an invitation to Evangeline, the family’s sprawling estate, Charlie heads south, where new friendships and an unlikely romance bring healing. But as she uncovers long-buried secrets of love, money, betrayal, and murder, the facts begin to implicate those she most wants to trust—and her visions reveal an evil closer than she could’ve imagined.
About the author: Hester Young holds a master’s degree in English with a concentration in creative writing from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, and her short stories have appeared in Hawai’i Review and other magazines. Before turning to writing full-time, she was a teacher in Arizona and New Hampshire. Young lives in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, with her husband and their two children.
Why I read this book: When I saw it was a “A Southern Gothic mystery debut that combines literary suspense and romance with a mystical twist,” I had to check it out.
First impressions: Love the creepy cover, and the eerie prologue drew me right in. One of my last impressions was that the title doesn’t do the story justice.
If this book were a movie, I would rate it: R. Profanity, mature themes.
Reminds me of… The Daughter by Jane Shemilt
Will especially appeal to… fans of Kate Atkinson and Tana French
This story matters… for its reminder of new life after death.
[Tweet “On tap this fall: a twisty, atmospheric mystery by debut novelist @HesterYoung”]
My take: From the start, this story’s complex heroine captured both my imagination and my heart. I may not have always liked her choices or opinions, but I couldn’t help but like her. Her combination of strengths and flaws made me care for her, wanting to ease her pain–and aid her in surmounting the enormous obstacles she faced. I also appreciated the honest way she grappled with spiritual issues, though I hope she will someday reach different conclusions. As this is, apparently, the first of a trilogy, in this I still have hope.
I especially liked the ways that Charlie’s interaction with Detective Minot added dimension to the story and depth to her character. On the other hand, I wouldn’t have minded the fleshing out of a few plot threads–a bit more on Grandma’s spectral legacy, Charlie’s relationship with Detective Minot’s wife, and the aftermath of Leeann’s story. Though here perhaps I’m being premature; perhaps these are dealt with in more detail later in the trilogy. In any case, these are minor things. I ripped through The Gates of Evangeline with very little effort. Ms. Young certainly knows how to spin a yarn, complete with red herrings and ever-ratcheted suspense.
This rich and atmospheric mystery makes a wonderfully dark and twisty read for fall.
Thanks to G.P. Putnam’s Sons for providing me a free copy to review. All opinions are mine.
After words: In the author’s notes I read that her story research encompassed a visit to Oak Alley Plantation–a place my husband and I visited while “babymooning” in New Orleans. (You’ll find a photo of Oak Alley on the banner of Hester Young’s website.) I remember sipping mint julep (minus the bourbon because it was, after all, our babymoon) on the front porch after touring this still-grand antebellum plantation. Isn’t it funny how discovering a little detail like that makes one feel more attached to a story? It’s almost as if I own a tiny piece of it. Has that ever happened to you?