The book Hag by Kathleen Kaufman is exactly what I’ve always wanted in a novel about witches. Every night, I crawled into bed and let my mind escape to the Scottish lowlands to hear more about the Cailleach — an ancient, matriarchal entity. The folklore and legend is intertwined with the modern day, coming-of-age story of the protagonist Alice Grace. Alice Grace has the ability to see things before they happen and sometimes it startles and scares her but often times, the gift serves her well.
I loved how the narrative kept going back and forth between the past and the future. It persuaded me to look fervently between the lines to find the connections.
Kaufman treats her readers to a unique storytelling style in which every chapter develops a little more of Alice’s character and persona as she ages and experiences life, love and loss. It took some getting used to at first, to trail after Alice as she moved quickly through childhood and adolescence, but I think ultimately it was an engaging literary device. It kept the story interesting as it spanned swiftly over many years instead of laboring over the details.
In tandem, we also get glimpses into a rich, historical narrative about the Cailleach and, if I’m honest with you now, these were my favorite pages. Kaufman effortlessly drew me into a magical story infused with the occult, strong female protagonists and atmospheric prose, so that I felt like I was standing on the cliffs of Scotland myself; a witness to the events unfolding. My review copy came with an Ingwaz design tattoo that I quickly applied to my left wrist. Who knows? Maybe I am a decedent with no real memory of my supernatural gifts or calling and I just need the provocation of my latent gifts to awaken my destiny. One can only hope.
I recommend this very highly to horror readers who enjoy tales of the occult told with opulence and dark mysticism — feels like reading secret tomes of old.