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The Keeper Paperback

3.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Headline Book Publishing
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0755333705
  • ISBN-13: 978-0755333707
  • Product Dimensions: 15.4 x 23.2 x 2.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 422 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
She's been compared to both Stephen King and Peter Straub (and, for the record, I'd say she leans a little more toward the latter than the former), but if The Keeper proves anything it's that Sarah Langan has developed a voice all her own. With a poetic sensibility she creates a haunting atmosphere and chilling imagery without ever bogging down the narrative. In fact, though it may seem almost aimless, the plot comes together like a dark mosaic, piece by piece, until the whole is revealed.

The Keeper is the story of a small town rotting from the roots on up. Bedford, Maine, had once prospered, but since the closing of the paper mill, its one source of income and primary source of employment, the town is now dying. Some of the townspeople blame the economy, some blame the mill operators, but many, even the most rational of them, blame Susan Marley, an odd young woman turned town whore, witch and sin-eater. With Susan as its central mass, the disease eating Bedford metastasizes, spreading dreamlike through and into the minds and lives of the town residents.

I have, in the past few months, made a concerted effort to find horror writers who've published their debut in the last five years. Sarah Langan ended up at the top of my short list, especially due to her Bram Stoker Award wins for her second and third novels, The Missing and Audrey's Door. If these are even half as good as The Keeper, then I'd say I've discovered not only a talented new voice in horror fiction, but a new favourite author.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
This atmospheric and chilling horror novel features first-rate characterization and the development of a real sense of place. Langan sets her first novel in the small, depressed Maine town of Bedford -- and over the course of the novel, Bedford falls. Ghosts and monsters walk the streets.

Indeed, the sheeted dead really do squeak and gibber in the Bedford streets at points, along with other monsters. The monsters of Bedford, though, are the manifestations of all its buried secrets. They have not invaded from Outside.

Langan uses third-person narration to delve into the inner lives of several characters, and does so skillfully without neglecting the atmospheric description necessary to showing the physical and social disintegration of the town as a whole, as both place and imaginative gestalt. At points, she "cuts loose" with visceral, physical horrors, but these things never take over the narrative. This is not a gross-out.

As with so much horror, supernatural events arise from human failure. Child abuse and alcoholism are the chief sins explored here, along with the morally corrosive effects of keeping secrets on both the personal and civic level. Bedford has its own skeletons, literal and figurative, in its closet. The closing of its primary industry before the novel begins becomes, over the course of the novel, a judgment on the town's failings -- and then it becomes something more complex and affecting.

Langan's characters are nicely developed, and their fates, for the most part, evade boiler-plate horror conventions. Startling moments in which the supernatural bursts into the "real" world abound. Through it all, Langan builds a convincing supernatural world populated by flawed human beings. There's evil here, but also hard-won goodness, very faint, very human, absolutely necessary.
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By Jeffrey Swystun TOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on Aug. 26 2010
Format: Mass Market Paperback
A confession upfront, I read The Keeper in preparation for its follow-up, The Missing whose plot appeals to me more. Having said that, this first effort by the author was entertaining and brings to mind Stephen King's New England. The damaged and mysterious Susan Marley holds sway over the town of Bedford, Maine during the day and in their dreams. This does set up a bit of suspense both in terms the origins of her situation and how this will impact the townies of Bedford. The characters are believable but not entirely worthy of our sympathy so this makes the whole book very dark. The ending comes up rather suddenly but rewards the reader who has been patient through an overly slow build. I look forward to The Missing and hopefully a more consistent book in tone and pace.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.3 out of 5 stars 108 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Keeper by Sarah Langan -- Eerie and Surreal March 21 2010
By L. Libro - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
The struggling town of Bedford, Maine is the setting for this surreal story of a town whose inhabitants are haunted in their dreams by a mute, destitute woman. The troubling history of the town's shuttered paper mill along with the struggles of the woman's maladjusted sister become a centrifuge in which the buried secrets of the town come to a terrifying reality--people and animals rise from the dead, and a spirit of homicidal rage grips the living.

I hadn't heard of Sarah Langan until a recent trip to my old haunts in Maine. While breakfasting at Becky's Diner in Portland I read about her debut novel, THE KEEPER, in The Forecaster, which had cited this horror novel as an eerie, realistic portrayal of life for some residents in the small lumber towns near Augusta. So it was with my own beloved Mainers in mind that I was drawn to purchase the book.

With a masterful use of prose, Langan hooked me right away even though I don't normally like horror novels. Horror novel I thought? Despite the opening scene set in a foreboding cemetery and the main character's ensuing nightmare encounter with her mysterious sister, I'm thinking, no, this is just an average day in a cold mucky town, suffering from the March thaw and a bad case of Spring fever. I've experienced that surreal quality myself, having lived fifteen winters in Maine. And the palpable touch of everyday reality, Langan's ability to bring characters right to me from the start, was just too good. That is the secret ingredient in Langan's writing; she has a special talent for drawing in the reader, (I almost want to say victim) first setting them up with just the right tone of ordinary life and offering a glimpse into compelling characters and internal connection to them. But then halfway in, Langan turns the corkscrew of intensity and the pull that grabbed you from the first page is inescapable. There's no turning back and no matter how surreal, bizarre or unsavory the topic, you MUST continue.

Some have said the plot was somewhat creaky or that is a relatively slow-paced novel, or that there are too many characters, but it is just this pace that brings you to your knees when she drops the final blow at the end, because you care about the inner workings of all the characters and can truly believe the sick, twisted, manifested evil that brings them to the horrifying end.

That being said, if you're looking for a fast-moving suspense story, you will probably be disappointed with this novel. The action thrives subliminally within you, the reader, through the emotional turmoil of the characters, and written action takes place only at the end, when all hell breaks loose.

I loved the book, even though horror is not typically my genre of choice, and here I must insert a warning. The topic of the book is something to be carefully considered before proceeding. Anyone who has, or knows someone who has, suffered from child sexual abuse will find that the horror only brings the reality to life and I would advise them not to read this book. The characters are far too real, and the experiences far too close to the mark even though the story is portrayed in surreal terms. In fact, it is this very method in art that bares the reality of such pain and despair so much more vividly.

I give the book three out of five stars. It is a compelling read, nearly flawless, but because the topic deserves a stronger infusion of compassion and reconciliation, as is, the story borders on exploitation.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Bad July 15 2010
By Clarissa's Blog - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Initially, a was a bit leery of this novel. I was afraid that this debut work would be a disappointment and a waste of time. However, the novel turned out to be quite good.

Langan is great at descriptions of everyday life in a small town in Maine. A disillusioned, washed-out teacher who is drinking himself into an early grave, a high-school girl trying to come to terms with abuse within her own family, a mother trying to avoid the knowledge that her husband abused his own daughter, the slow disintegration of life in the town that inhabitants of Bedford attribute to its being haunted: this is all narrated with a great economy of artistic means and produces a very powerful impression.

Where Langan fails, however, is in the creation of horror scenes. She is a powerful realist writer but for some reason Langan must believe that adding horror scenes will make her book more powerful. That doesn't happen. I almost abandoned the book at the very beginning when I encountered a very sloppy and overdone horror scene. It seems like the author watched many bad Hollywood movies and is guided by the imagery they suggested to her. Often, you can practically see the writer attempting to create a text that could be turned into a movie. This, of course, doesn't make for good writing. Everything is exaggerated, to the point of becoming obnoxious. These insistent and extremely ornate horror passages come into a sharp contrast with the beautifully simple prose of the rest of the novel. Stranngely, Langan understands the power of understatement everywhere except in the horror scenes. If she had paid closer attention to her famous predecessors in the genre, she would have noticed that the atmosphere of horror is best created not through detailed descriptions of blood and gore but by a mere suggestion of something scary lurking in the background.

Another problem I had with the book were the chapter titles that reminded me of the way TV show episodes sometimes are named: "The Husband of the Woman Who Jumped Out the Window (Fall from Grace)", "Guy Walks into a Bar", "Excruciatingly Tight Acid-Washed Jeans." This seemed completely out of place in a novel like The Keeper. I am happy that I didn't see the table of contents before I started reading the book (thanks to the Kindle it's possible to skip the table of contents), or I wouldn't have even begun the novel.

I'm not sorry I read this book, but unless Langan decides to turn to what she does best - a straightforward realist narrative - I don't think I'll read another novel by this author.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Starts out well; ends badly. Jan. 26 2010
By Ladyslott - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
The town of Bedford, Maine is dying, little by little. The paper mill is closed; families are leaving looking for better lives; the kids that live there cannot wait to graduate high school and get out. Liz Marley is one of those girls hoping to leave behind her family and sister Susan. Susan is the specter of the town; wandering around, not speaking to anyone and somehow invading the thoughts of all the people in the town. When Susan falls to her death in a terrible accident all the dark secrets of Bedford and its inhabitants begin to come out; the dead start to rise and madness is taking over little by little.

I don't read much horror anymore, but The Keeper sounded promising and it was a freebie for Kindle. It actually started out quite well, reminiscent of Stephen King's early novels set in small town Maine; unfortunately somewhere about halfway through the storyline became too violent, too choppy and at times in the midst of all that too boring with a lot of repetition and far too much detail. The biggest problem for me is that I didn't care about most of the people in the book, whenever I felt a connection it was too fleeting and soon I just wanted to get to the end, which unsurprisingly was anti-climatic. I rated it two stars because it did start out well and since it is a debut maybe future books will be better; I like to give new authors the benefit of a doubt.
3.0 out of 5 stars Promising start for a first novel, but lacks cohesion Oct. 19 2009
By Z Hayes - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm a fan of horror fiction, especially those that are supernatural in theme, and when this popped up as a no charge on my Kindle, I decided to try it. Though I was not incredibly impressed by it, I did enjoy it for the most part, and considering that this is a debut novel by the author, I think she shows promise. The story itself centers around the inhabitants of the small, economically-depressed town of Bedford, Maine. The town has a living 'spectre', an emotionally-damaged young woman named Susan Marley who walks about the town, staring into other's faces with deep, penetrating eyes, an a hungry 'look', and generally creeping people out.

Susan's sister, Liz, is tormented by her sister's condition, and experiences some sort of guilt for having escaped this 'damage', and all this is somehow linked to the sisters' relationship with their father. Their mother on the other hand, tries her best to ignore Susan, and refuses to listen when Liz pleads with her to try and reach out to Susan. Then there's the woods that border the town - something is not quite right with these woods, and there are rumors of some sort of creature inhabiting it, one which Liz narrowly escapes one cold winter evening. Well, when Susan dies in a tragic manner, it acts as a catalyst that unleashes an unspeakable horror upon the living, causing mayhem and devastation amongst the inhabitants of Bedford.

The novel begins intriguingly enough, but at certain points slows to almost a plodding pace, before picking up again. The characters are interesting, but I did not find them particularly interesting, except perhaps for Liz whom I rather liked. There is something lacking in this debut novel, in terms of in-depth characterization, and gets overly descriptive at times. On the whole though, it is an interesting read, and I plan to check out the author's other works (I have heard good things about her latest "Audrey's Door"). If you like this, you might also consider the works of other female horror authors such as Sarah Pinborough ("The Taken"), Deborah Leblanc's brand of Cajun horror, and Alexandra Sokoloff ("The Harrowing").
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Creepy and fabulous. March 7 2008
By Olivia R. Burton - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is a hard one to describe. It's set entirely in a small city called Bedford, Maine. Its inhabitants are mostly lower middle class, small town people. They drink, they gossip, they work. Recently their main source of income, the paper mill, was shut down, leaving many of them jobless and with very little to do. Most leave, but some stay. Haunting the town is Susan Marley, a clearly crazy girl who, quite frankly, creeps everyone out. Roughly halfway through the book, Susan dies. Then, she comes back. She brings with her all the dead secrets the town has buried in the past. From there, the town slowly descends into a dark pit of madness.

The dialogue in this book is very good, though not perfect. For the most part, I wasn't jarred out of the story by awkward dialogue, but occasionally things felt forced and perhaps written in just to satisfy some desire on the author's part.

Things do not progress quickly and nothing big really happens until about 3/4 of the way through. A lot of it is slow, creeping plot development. To be honest about my personal preferences, I would have liked a different ending. This is not to say that it was a bad ending, or that it was written poorly. I just would have liked to see the author take it a different direction.

Honestly, I have no complaints about Langan's writing. She has some really great imagery, knows how to give give each character his or her own flavor. She kept up the creepy, subtly disturbing ambiance throughout the whole book. There are several scenes that are just plain unsettling and she does a really fantastic job of keeping the spider-somewhere-in-your-bed discomfort level. It's never outright threatening, but you can't help but feel rather squicked.

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