Posted in Can't-miss Reads, Upcoming Releases

The Drowning Kind, by Jennifer McMahon

Release date: April 6, 2021

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★  (10/10)

SPOILER-FREE REVIEW: The Drowning Kind was written by Jennifer McMahon and will be released by Gallery/Scout Press in April of 2021. McMahon is a New York Times bestselling author and the prolific writer of MANY successful, haunting mystery/thrillers, including The Invited, The Winter People, and The Night Sister. The tagline for her new novel reads, “From the New York Times bestselling author of The Invited and The Winter People comes a chilling new novel about a woman who returns to the old family home after her sister mysteriously drowns in its swimming pool…but she’s not the pool’s only victim. Be careful what you wish for.”

PLOT RUNDOWN/BASICS: Jax is a social worker counseling troubled kids in Seattle, thousands of miles away from where she grew up in New England. Estranged from her older sister, Lexie, she is suddenly drawn back into the past – and the home she’s run away from – when her sister leaves her a series of increasingly troubling messages on her answering machine.

Lexie is bipolar, and Jax’s propensity to want to rescue her sister – plus her unexpected bitterness over Lexie’s inheritance of their grandmother’s vast fortune and property the year before – have led her to start a new life so far away. But it’s become clear to Jax that Lexie has stopped taking her medication, and when she asks their aunt to check on her, she is given the troubling news that her sister has been found dead in the pool on her property.

This book has many layers – it’s a historical family tale, a ghost story, a mystery, and a treatise on the depths of love and loss. I feel as if I could peel apart a completely new understanding and appreciation for this story with each successive rereading of the book.”

Jax must return home to Sparrow Crest, where she and Lexie spent all of their childhood summers with their late grandmother. She’s there to arrange Lexie’s funeral and take care of her affairs, including a cleaning of the neglected large stone mansion…but she’s also intensely curious about what happened to cause Lexie’s death. Lexie was a champion swimmer, one who knew all the ins and outs of their grandmother’s mysterious (and seemingly bottomless) pool, and how she could drown is beyond Jax’s comprehension.

What Jax finds will lead her down the same troubling, haunting, and terrifying path Lexie took before her own death – and to the same shocking revelations that Lexie uncovered in her final days. Some legends are true, some ghost stories are all too real, and sometimes, when we make a wish…we aren’t prepared to pay the price it costs.

MY THOUGHTS: This was not my first McMahon novel, but I read The Invited so many years ago that it might as well be. I loved this novel immensely, and I wish I could go back and read it again for the first time. I sped through it in two days, and it was only in rereading it for a detailed review that I noticed some of the very clever “easter eggs” sprinkled throughout the novel that tie the past – and the dead – to the living in the present time.

This novel goes back and forth between the late 1920s/early 1930s, before Sparrow’s Crest is built, and the summer of 2019, when Jax loses her sister and must return home. We are able to see how the decisions of Jax’s ancestors create a ripple effect that lasts for generations, impacting the lives – and deaths – of the Monroe family for at least a hundred years. When they are willing to overlook the warnings and whispers of curses to fulfill their own selfish desires – including, in many cases, a desperate desire to avoid grief and loss – they start an avalanche of loss and tragedy for decades to come. McMahon is there to remind us that trying to control any aspect of life is a tricky business; she chillingly writes, “The spring does not give without taking. Miracles are not without their price.”

McMahon is an incredibly literary writer, which you’ll know if you’ve ever enjoyed any of her previous novels. Her vivid imagery of Sparrow’s Crest, and its cursed pool and overgrown gardens, are enough to catapult you into the middle of the story…and her depictions of grief and loss are beautifully haunting and realistic. But let’s not forget that this is a suspenseful ghost story, and there are parts where I found myself curling up under the covers and holding my breath as I waited for Jax to grab the flashlight, or follow the watery footprints, or find out what was causing the pool gate to bang open in the middle of the night.

I loved this novel immensely, and I wish I could go back and read it again for the first time.”

This book has many layers – it’s a historical family tale, a ghost story, a mystery, and a treatise on the depths of love and loss. I feel as if I could peel apart a completely new understanding and appreciation for this story with each successive rereading of the book. It’s the second excellent novel I’ve read this year about the incredibly close and tenuous bond between sisters (the first being The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth, also slated for release next year). A sisterly relationship can be volatile, fraught with jealousy and envy and bitterness…but it’s only (typically) because the love is so deep and intense and unmatched that it’s as hard to be apart as it is to be together.

The ending is as good and haunting as the story itself, and it does not disappoint. I’m so excited for this book to get published so I can discuss it with everyone – and until then, I’m definitely making plans to get my hands on more of McMahon’s books.

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