I treated myself to a copy of THE FAMILIAR DARK after reading and loving ROANOKE GIRLS by this author. She just has such talent when it comes to creating a true Southern Gothic, where secrets are buried as deep as bones, and the children bear the sins of their forefathers. It's so rare to find an author who can create that sort of depth of atmosphere and characterization, and I knew when I finished ROANOKE GIRLS that this was an author I wanted to watch.
THE FAMILIAR DARK is a little bit different than ROANOKE. ROANOKE was a coming of age story, but FAMILIAR DARK is more of a traditional gritty murder story. When Eve finds out her twelve-year-old daughter has been murdered, it takes her to the sort of feral mindset that she's tried to distance herself from since escaping from her mother's abusive home. She swore she would be the person her daughter deserved rather than the person she feared she might be because of her mother, and ironically, it's her mother who might end up becoming her solace when all other ends yield stone walls.
I saw other reviews saying the twist was predictable. Maybe I'm a dummy, then, because I didn't see it coming. I'm not sure I liked it but at least I could sort of understand it. Part of the fun reading this book is Eve, who is allowed to be desperate, flawed, and raw. I liked how her grief manifested as anger, and she didn't bother mourning the "correct" way. I liked how there were feminist themes in this book, and how the author showed-- with subtlety-- how hard it is to implement change in places that don't want to be changed, and how a woman's strength might manifest differently, and maybe even in a warped way, when she isn't allowed to be powerful on her own terms. It felt like a very powerful message.
This is a sad book and the ending is, at best, just bittersweet (and maybe not even that). But I can't really give it less than five stars because of how much it made me feel, and how fascinated I was with the characters and the setting. Thank GOD Amy Engel has a new book coming out soon (I've been waiting!) because I've been putting off reading her YA duology just so I can have something else of hers to look forward to. Ms. Engel truly is a talent and I recommend her to anyone looking to scratch that Gillian Flynn itch.
4.5 out of 5 stars