Review: Cackle by Rachel Harrison

cover of Cackle by Rachel HarrisonCackle by Rachel Harrison
Berkley (October 2021)
304 pages; $19.99 hardcover; $14.99 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann

Cackle by Rachel Harrison is a mixed bag of emotions. The story centers on Annie Crane, a woman looking for a fresh start after her boyfriend moves their relationship into the friendzone. She leaves the city for a quaint, little rental in a small town.

Things do not go well. Annie is consumed with her feelings about the break-up and her new job at the local high school is only adding to her lack of self-esteem. None of her new co-workers make her feel welcomed and the students in her class are not cooperative.

Then she meets Sophie and everything begins to change.

First of all, I want to set some early expectations here. I don’t know why Amazon has this book under “vampire fiction” because there are no vampires. Don’t come to Cackle looking for any blood-suckage. But can I interest you in some cozy Witch-Lit?

As Sophie and Annie’s friendship develops, it becomes increasingly obvious there is something different about Sophie. Annie takes note of how the townspeople engage with her new friend; the way people seem almost frightened by her. Annie is utterly mesmerized by Sophie’s charisma but also a little thrown off by how intense she is about everything.

Honestly, Sophie’s behavior toward Annie gave me anxiety. As an introvert who enjoys my own company and a low level of social commitments, the way Sophie courts Annie for friendship is a lot. There are invites for breakfast, trips to the café, so many tokens of affection and gestures of kindness, even an invite for an overnighter after just a few days. Not to mention, Sophie clearly wears her neediness for a bestie on her sleeve. I felt like the author did an amazing job communicating how exhilarating all of that attention can be while, at the same time, how overwhelming it would be. I think some women were made for that level of intimacy between friends and seem to thrive in situations where there is daily interaction, but I felt validated by Annie’s hesitancy to jump into it with the enthusiasm Sophie was expecting.

This book is really about Annie and the rollercoaster of emotions she goes through during the course of this novel. Themes of self-care and personal introspection. Setting healthy boundaries in relationships. The process of learning to love yourself in any setting-alone or moving through life with a partner. 

Layered into Annie’s journey of self-discovery is the story of Sophie and why she’s so unique. It’s a lot of fun because it never really crosses into dark horror territory. Harrison keeps this tale pretty light, all things considered. This is the perfect kind of book for readers who like to read something a little spooky and dark for October but aren’t really looking for traditional horror scares. I enjoyed this one and had it perfectly cast with actors who fit the various roles for the movie that played in my mind while I was reading. So much fun.

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