ARC Review: Wake the Bones by Elizabeth Kilcoyne

Hello my dears, it’s time for an ARC review! This week I’m happy to bring you Wake the Bones, a lovely Appalachian horror tale out on July 12, 2022.

I want to write something to describe this book that is as lyrical as the prose itself, but I will not in any fashion manage. Kilcoyne makes descriptions of the utterly familiar Appalachian setting sing whether she’s talking about the menacing shadows of the woods, the warm summer mud of the river, or the greasy pizza at the only restaurant in town (which is really more of a convenience store). If you’ve grown up in these scenes, life breathes from the pages. The rot of death does too. How many times have I walked outside to scent death on the wind? If you’ve never scooped dismembered deer parts out of your high school parking lot, you may have trouble connecting with this world, but the world will connect with you. It will slip up your back like Virginia creeper and hold you close like blackberry vines, with all the attendant prickles.

I loved the bitter, seesaw swing of the dialogue in this book. It reminded me so thoroughly of home before I moved to the city, where those accents and phrases flatten and even out. I loved the backbreaking work in the fields, the mud on Laurel Early’s boots. And I recognized too well the bruise around Isaac Graves’ eye, the need to get away even when you love a place down to your bones, when your blood flows there. The titular bones, the devil? Almost an afterthought amidst the lush prose and the memories it evokes. Nevertheless, you ignore that shadow at your peril, as Laurel soon discovers. The Early farm has ghosts. Every family does, and sometimes your flesh and blood can’t protect you, no matter how hard it strains. Especially when what it hopes to protect you from is itself, its own legacy.

Read this book if you’ve ever wanted to know the taste of an Appalachian summer, timeless and sunburnt and a little hopeless, too. Read this if you loved Summer Sons, and also wanted more of the backroads, the woods, the blood in the soil. Read this if you’ve always suspected that magic will turn in your hands like a knife and cut to the quick.

It can. It will. There’s nothing tame here. The bones may long to rise, but the soil is hungry. This dark, gaping maw of earth that we all return to is a siren’s song. Enjoy.


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