“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.”
My Thoughts: There is no doubt that The Women in the Walls is creepy and gory and filled with wonderful horror goodness. Unfortunately, it is also a sad case of the wrong book at the wrong time. I did not experience any of the emotions or sensations that come with a good horror novel no matter how much I wanted or hoped I would. Instead, Ms. Lukavics’ version of a haunted house tale left me feeling nothing.
Some of my issues are around Lucy herself. As the main character around whom all of the mysterious happenings occur, you know you are supposed to find her sympathetic. Her father ignores her, her beloved aunt has disappeared, and her cousin is descending into madness. She is left alone in a cold and isolated mansion for great swaths of the novel, stuck with her own thoughts and feelings and trying to make sense of what is happening to her family. She exposes her weaknesses to the reader with no small sense of shame. In spite of all of this, she does not evoke sympathy. Instead, her penchant for inaction makes her almost complicit in what comes later and is sure to annoy readers.
The rest of the novel feels very manipulative. The clues that things are not what they seem are a bit too obvious, almost as if there was the written equivalent of a neon sign pointing to a line or passage and stating “This is important!” The characters are stiff and dodgy. The mansion is too blatantly isolated, and the lack of visitors outside of Club members too noticeable. Everything is just a bit too…everything. There is nothing subtle about any of it. From the setting to the tone to the characters, there is an in-your-face quality to all of it that wants to scare you but has none of the power to do so.
To compound matters, there is a distinct lack of answers to many of the questions that are pushed in your face, and the ending is extremely rushed. Three-fourths of the novel are Lucy trying to figure out what she should do about her growing concerns, and the last quarter is a frantic rush to the final page. The explanations you do receive – about the Club, about Lucy’s family inheritance, about her father’s role in everything – are paltry at best and confusing at worst. Because the characters never receive more than a cursory introduction, you do not know enough about the Acosta family to understand what is unfolding. Plus, Ms. Lukavics makes the mistake of introducing new characters at the very end who end up with a large part in the final crisis. In short, it is a maddening ending that frustrates more than entertains or scares.
Again, I suspect the issues with The Women in the Walls are my problem and not the fault of the book itself. Look on Goodreads and you will see plenty of positive reviews from people who loved it. I struggled with not feeling anything for Lucy and therefore being completely uninterested in her fate. I also had issues with the forced suspense and seemingly random ending. This may be one I try again as an audiobook. Then again, I may just let it go and move on to the next book.