27 August 2020

Review || The Ghost Tree by Christina Henry



When people go missing in the sleepy town of Smith's Hollow, the only clue to their fate comes when a teenager starts having terrifying visions, in a chilling horror novel from national bestselling author Christina Henry.


When the bodies of two girls are found torn apart in the town of Smiths Hollow, Lauren is surprised, but she also expects that the police won't find the killer. After all, the year before her father's body was found with his heart missing, and since then everyone has moved on. Even her best friend, Miranda, has become more interested in boys than in spending time at the old ghost tree, the way they used to when they were kids.

So when Lauren has a vision of a monster dragging the remains of the girls through the woods, she knows she can't just do nothing. Not like the rest of her town. But as she draws closer to answers, she realizes that the foundation of her seemingly normal town might be rotten at the center. And that if nobody else stands for the missing, she will.


   

The Ghost Tree is not a reimagining like Christina Henry's other work like Alice or The Lost boys though, with a bit of imagination, it does give off Sleepy Hollow vibes. Instead, she gives us a coming of age story with a young female protagonist in a small town horror setting. There's a folkloric feel idling behind this beautiful eerie cover. Set in the 1980s, the story revolves around teenage Lauren, though this is not a nostalgic tale leaving you fondly recalling those days. This is an account of monsters, violence, and a curse laid on a provincial town and all its residents. 

Lauren seems to be your typical teenager. Afraid that she is being left behind by her best friend in favor of boys and makeup, Lauren is still grieving the death of her father the year before. The titular "Ghost Tree" in the forest has always been their place to meet but since Miranda has other interests, Lauren goes alone, and while there she has frightening visions of the two girls recently found in pieces in a neighbors yard. Languidly, what's unraveled is a grim narrative of the secret the residents of this small town have been maintaining unknowingly for years. 

There's no denying that Henry has beautiful prose. There's a moment in which Lauren's grandmother tells the story about three witches during the town's early days. Spellbinding and captivating, it definitely shows that the author's strong point as a narrator lies in recreating fairytales. While the rest of the story was intriguing, it didn't appeal as strongly as this section. Not to say it didn't have its merits, but there's nothing better than that ethereal fairytale aura woven viva voce. 

 Henry's narrative ebbed and flowed like a backwoods creek—sometimes quietly burbling along and at others racing white-capped over stones. This mystery is one that doesn't make sense until it suddenly does. It's that "ah-ha" moment where you realize everything was perfectly orchestrated to lead to that moment. The ending redeemed any slower qualities the book may have had, giving a gratifying confrontation and conclusion, bringing the curse full circle.