“Haven Woods is suburban heaven, a great place to raise a family. It’s close to the city, quiet, with great schools and its own hospital right up the road. Property values are climbing, and the crime rate is practically nonexistent.
Paula Wittmore hasn’t been back to Haven Woods since she left as a disgraced teenager. Now she’s returning to care for her suddenly ailing mother, and she’s bringing her daughter and a pile of emotional baggage. She’s also bringing, unknowingly, the last chance for her mother’s closest frenemies . . . twelve women bound together by a powerful secret that requires the sacrifice of a thirteenth.”
Thoughts: Just how far are you willing to go to secure your family’s happiness, health, and prosperity? Would you go as far as selling your soul to achieve your heart’s desire? This is just one aspect of Susie Moloney’s latest, The Thirteen. Not only does she explore the lengths to which a woman will go to achieve her dreams, she explores its aftermath as well. Just how low will a person crawl in order to maintain the status quo and avoid losing everything? Therein lies the mystery and the drama.
The biggest issue with the The Thirteen is that no one character is particularly fresh. Each of the characters appears more as an archetype rather than a uniquely new character. There are the guilt-ridden friends who are torn between doing their duty versus doing what is right. There are the clueless ones, the shallow blind followers, the ruthless do-anything-necessary types, the charming and attractive love interest/savior, the strong rebellious daughter, and everything else readers would expect in such a novel.
At the same time, the plot follows a similar story arc as The Craft or even Witches of Eastwick. However, the differences from these stories are where The Thirteen shines. The Thirteen is not about beginnings but about endings. Rather than showcasing a new group of witches and how they let their power go to their heads, the group in Haven Woods have been comfortably using their power for two decades. It is their need/desire to maintain their power source that is the cause of all the mystery. The resulting drama is fresh and interesting. Unfortunately, even the look towards the future is not enough to prevent the story from being overly predictable.
That being said, Ms. Moloney’s writing is what saves The Thirteen from becoming just another copycat novel about witches. She is able to take these very familiar elements and combine them in such a way that makes them just as exciting and nerve-wracking as they were the first time. She captures the reader’s interest with the first hint of something insidious within the confines of Haven Woods. In addition, Paula’s plight keeps readers turning the pages, as they anxiously await to uncover whether she is going to figure out the mystery in time even as they can already surmise the answer. The tension built throughout the novel is formidable and extremely enjoyable.
The Thirteen presents the idea of a mother’s willingness to do anything for her family’s happiness taken to the extreme. Izzy is deliciously complicated, garnering a reader’s combined wrath and empathy, while Paula is the heroine to which every (female) reader will relate with her desire to seek a better future for her daughter while trying to help her ailing mother. The ending is a touch bit too predictable but satisfying all the same. The Thirteen is a fun, thrilling, and quick read – perfect for those stormy summer nights.
Acknowledgments: Thank you to William Morrow for my review copy!