The Women in the Walls by Amy Lukavics

the-women-in-the-walls“Lucy Acosta’s mother died when she was three. Growing up in a Victorian mansion in the middle of the woods with her cold, distant father, she explored the dark hallways of the estate with her cousin, Margaret. They’re inseparable—a family.

When her aunt Penelope, the only mother she’s ever known, tragically disappears while walking in the woods surrounding their estate, Lucy finds herself devastated and alone. Margaret has been spending a lot of time in the attic. She claims she can hear her dead mother’s voice whispering from the walls. Emotionally shut out by her father, Lucy watches helplessly as her cousin’s sanity slowly unravels. But when she begins hearing voices herself, Lucy finds herself confronting an ancient and deadly legacy that has marked the women in her family for generations.”

So, wow.  This is a good novel to kick off October, the month associated with All Things Scary, especially in the media.  You can’t turn on a cable channel without the risk of glimpsing a slasher flick in progress; in a similar vein, it seems like a disproportionate number of books that I’ve read lately have something to do with monsters or things that go bump in the night.  I didn’t plan it that way, it just happened.

And with this one?… well, in my opinion, this book started out interesting and then took a hard left turn into gore-ville.

Basically, the feel that I got from the first half of the book was one of psychological horror.  Lucy is a cutter, slicing the skin of her legs and hips to let out the pressure of being expected to be a perfect Acosta girl.  The adults in her family seem oddly obsessed with a country club, hosting parties and dinners that must be seen as the most fashionable and the epitome of graciousness.  When Penelope goes missing and Margaret (who was jealous of her mother’s connection with Lucy) begins to hear her mother’s voice in the walls, all the elements seemed to be combining to tell a tale of the price of womanhood in society.  I could see all the pieces fitting together: the expectations on the women and girls; the sense of being haunted by the women who came before; the feeling of a legacy that can’t be avoided no matter how hard you try.  I was really getting into what I thought this novel was saying.

And then other things crept in–jars of teeth, bundles of bones, and other unsettling objects begin to appear.  And finally, the story devolves into a long ending of unrelenting blood and guts and paranormal happenings.  The story goes from disturbing to flat-out horrific in the space of a few pages and only gets worse from that point on.

I feel like this novel suffers from a lack of focus.  Did the author want to write a deep psychological study on the dangers of being a woman?  Did she want to write a creepy supernatural tale?  Did she want to create the prose equivalent of a splatter flick?  I don’t know that there’s an answer to this.  The book starts out one way, ends another way, and tries on a few other genres in the interim.  I’m not saying that you can’t write a story that contains all of these elements, but I am saying that this one didn’t do that good of a job at it, if that’s what Lukavic was aiming for.

If you’re a fan of delving deep into the terror of the human condition, you won’t like how this book ends.  If you love flying gore, you won’t like how this book starts.  Either way, I don’t imagine it will satisfy many.

This book was a personal purchase.

(Description nicked from

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