Cackle by Rachel Harrison: Spooky and Empowering

All her life, Annie has played it nice and safe. After being unceremoniously dumped by her longtime boyfriend, Annie seeks a fresh start. She accepts a teaching position that moves her from Manhattan to a small village upstate. She’s stunned by how perfect and picturesque the town is. The people are all friendly and warm. Her new apartment is dreamy too, minus the oddly persistent spider infestation.  

Then Annie meets Sophie. Beautiful, charming, magnetic Sophie, who takes a special interest in Annie, who wants to be her friend. More importantly, she wants Annie to stop apologizing and start living for herself. That’s how Sophie lives. Annie can’t help but gravitate toward the self-possessed Sophie, wanting to spend more and more time with her, despite the fact that the rest of the townsfolk seem…a little afraid of her. And like, okay. There are some things. Sophie’s appearance is uncanny and ageless, her mansion in the middle of the woods feels a little unearthly, and she does seem to wield a certain power…but she couldn’t be…could she?

Rachel Harrison does a fantastic job of balancing spooky with empowering. Just as the main character, Annie, questions Sophie’s motives so too will the reader, wondering what Sophie’s true purpose is. It is obvious from the very beginning that Sophie isn’t quite what she seems and Annie questions why she would take an interest in someone like Annie. The spiders add the perfect touch of spooky unless you know that spiders can be helpful as well as scary and that adds a layer of complexity to the story. 

One of the tools that Rachel Harrison uses is the presentation of the story. She doesn’t use the typical past tense. Instead she opts for the first person from Annie’s point of view and present tense. This adds an immediacy to the plot and the characters, making the story more intense. If you’re not used to it, it can be difficult to read but does make the story more personal. Also it makes Annie more engaging and Sophie more mysterious. Annie’s break up with her boyfriend also leads her to choices that while might not be right for every person are ultimately about empowerment and I think we all could use a little of that. 

If you like novels about witches, empowerment, and all the spooky things that go bump in the night, you will love this novel. The depiction of witches while fictional still has authentic touches and also manages to not depict witches in a bad light. It is a marvelous story that makes for a powerful narrative. 

Rating: 5 out of 5 spiders

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