Review: A Hawk in the Woods by Carrie Laben

A Hawk in the Woods by Carrie Laben
Word Horde (March 2019)

270 pages; $15.42 paperback; $6.99 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie Hartmann

This debut novel from Carrie Laben sure sticks to your ribs long after you’ve read it. The prose itself is rich but it’s all the subtext and symbolism that fills up your mind with food for thought.

The beginning chapters reveal no indication of what’s in store. Abby Waite gets some life altering news that changes the direction of her life pretty drastically-starting with her intention to break her sister out of prison. Once on the road, the reader goes on a road trip with the two sisters who have spent some time apart but waste no time getting back to the usual. Well, whatever is usual for them.

Abby and Martha are twins. They each have some remarkable powers. Abby can “push” people and Martha can “fold” time. At first it is unclear how these powers developed or where they come from until the narrative splits into two: One following the present day road trip with the sisters making their way to the old family cabin, and the other told in flashbacks to the sisters’ troubling past.

The sense of foreboding is real. It’s tangible. Often times I caught myself wanting to just relieve the tension and skim forward to what was sure to be a mind blowing, disturbing climax. But then the plot I was currently reading would thicken and I would once again become absorbed into Carrie’s memorizing tale.

Admittedly, there were moments where I was frustrated with the pacing and I was longing for the narrative that takes place in the past, when the two girls were being raised in a non-traditional, occultish lifestyle by their abusive mother and grandfather. The flashbacks give the most insight and clues into what was happening, satisfying some burning questions I developed early on. The flashbacks also helped to make sense of Abby’s present day plan, which I think was intentionally ambiguous. A few times, I read back through some portions of the story because I was afraid I had missed something.

Mid-way through the book, Carrie Laben begins to peel back the layers and get to the heart of the story. Once we begin our descent to the book’s harrowing conclusion, Laben stirs up an original and unusual experience I won’t soon forget. I’m eager to read more from this author and it’s my recommendation that horror fans show up to the party sooner, rather than later.

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