on January 29, 2012
[Spoiler alert] Chris Bohjalian is uneven at best. He's trying, with his various genre experiments, to be Stewart O'Nan, but he really doesn't have the writing chops. In this one, he dabbles his toe in the very deep waters of Stephen King, but everything about the formula is wrong. From the moment our mentally unstable pilot confronts the basement door in his new house--with exactly the same number of bolts as the number of people who died in the plane he crashed--we know what's going to come through that door. But why only 3? And the motivation of the ghostly father is haphazard at best.
A kind of a poor-man's version of "The Shining" isn't all Mr. Bohjalian aims at; as well he gives us an ancient New England coven of nature witches and warlocks. But it's not enough that everybody and his brother/sister is part of that coven, or that they have to have the blood of traumatized twins, as our protagonist happens to be the dad of, but in case we still don't get it, everyone of them was given/has taken obscure plant names. The author is virtually pinning a sign to their backs saying, "I'm evil." But though he's established (weakly) multiple conflicts in the protagonist, he decides, of a sudden, to make one of the witches a defector to add person vs person (witch vs witch)to the mix.
Most of the characters are brought in and dropped out without significant character development. Each could be typified with a single line of description: the crazy witchy therapist; the dapper old warlock; the obsessed-with-blood villainess. The protagonist's real therapist is dispatched in an all-too-easy car accident which no one cares enough to investigate. Bohjalian must've flipped a coin to see which twin they would take or whether the ending would turn out badly or well. Either would make equal sense--or lack thereof.
I bought this as an e-book--a significant weakness of this format--or else I would've returned the book or given it away after the first 30 pages. Read the blurbs on it and then create the book in your own imagination. Trust me, it will likely be a better plot.