“Twenty-five year old Ivy Rowan rises from her bed after being struck by the flu, only to discover the world has been torn apart in just a few short days.
But Ivy’s life-long gift—or curse—remains. For she sees the uninvited ones—ghosts of loved ones who appear to her, unasked, unwelcomed, for they always herald impending death. On that October evening in 1918 she sees the spirit of her grandmother, rocking in her mother’s chair. An hour later, she learns her younger brother and father have killed a young German out of retaliation for the death of Ivy’s older brother Billy in the Great War.
Horrified, she leaves home, to discover the flu has caused utter panic and the rules governing society have broken down. Ivy is drawn into this new world of jazz, passion, and freedom, where people live for the day, because they could be stricken by nightfall. But as her ‘uninvited guests’ begin to appear to her more often, she knows her life will be torn apart once more, but Ivy has no inkling of the other-worldly revelations about to unfold.”
My Thoughts: You can tell that Cat Winters’ The Uninvited was written during the height of the big twist phenomenon in literature. Not only does it have one itself, it follows the same format as so many novels from 2015 do. This does not make The Uninvited a bad novel, but it is rather amusing all the same.
Set during the end of World War I and at the beginning of the flu epidemic,The Uninvited explores the very real anger and fear citizens from all walks of life felt at that time. Through her new-found freedom, Ivy discovers the depths of that fear and how people expressed it. The terrifying parts of the story involve the hatred towards anything remotely German, and it does not take much imagination to compare that to current-day antipathy towards Muslims. Reading this in a world where prejudices and hatred helped elect a highly unqualified man as President, it is frightening indeed to perceive of a world where citizens inform on each other about about supposed enemy sympathies.
At the same time, the rapidity of the spread of the flu and the inadequate resources to combat it that Ivy experiences are equally chilling when reading it in this antibiotic-resistant world of ours. As the distinction between the haves and the have nots grows ever sharper today, Ms Winters’ exploration of the very distinct dividing line between those who receive help versus those who do not are all too familiar and is particularly timely. The entire novel feels like an important cautionary tale for the future and a country lead by Mr. Trump.
Because of the current mood of the country, The Uninvited does not have quite the same impact it had when it was first released. It was released when big plot twists were all the rage, and every other novel had something unexpected that changed the story. The historical setting was informative and interesting but not the focus. Today, however, the historical setting is the important part of the novel. The anti-German sentiment and the racial and monetary divisions within society strike too close to the center of the current post-election division within the United States.
The big twist itself feels less important in this context, although it obviously was not the intent at the time of writing or publication. It is not that the twist is not interesting or surprising, for it is both. It is just that the social commentary of the novel is more important to today’s reader than it was a year ago. Perhaps in four years, these fears will be unfounded and the social commentary will be less important. One can only hope.