“The first time I meet Patrick Braddock, I’m wearing his wife’s lipstick. The color is exactly wrong for me. Deep, ripe plum, nearly purple, the type of harsh shade that beautiful women wear to prove they can get away with anything. Against my ordinary features, the lipstick is as severe as a bloodstain. I feel like a misbehaving child trying on her mother’s makeup. ” -Sarah Flannery Murphy, The Possessions
We decided to try Book of the Month Club for the first time this month. (There is an affiliate link in this post, but the post is not sponsored. We happily pay for our books each month.) Book of the Month Club gives subscribers a chance to pick one of 5 hand-picked books each month for 15.99. You can also pick an additional 2 books for 9.99 each. The selections were so good for February that we each picked a different book and then chose a book from the January box as well (keep an eye out for our review of Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk.)
Jackie’s Pick – The Possessions by Sarah Flannery Murphy
The Possessions was one of the choices for the Book of the Month Club for February. There were so many great choices this month that it was definitely a difficult choice. There was something about this book that seemed so intriguing that I read it cover to cover in a day and a half.
Eurydice (Edie for short) is a “body” that works at the Elysian Society in an unnamed city. Clients who wish to contact a dead friend, spouse, parents, lover etc. can hire a body to channel their deceased loved one. All that is required is a valued possession from when the person was alive and the “lotus” pill. The spirit possesses the “body” after the “body” swallows the pill. The “body” will not remember anything until the effect of the pill wears off at the end of the session. One stipulation is that the dead person cannot die by murder or suicide.
Eurydice has been at the Elysian society for five years, by far the longest of any body. She lives a melancholy and lonely life with no friends and no life outside the walls of the society. She has her own room and a need to follow the rules to the letter. Along comes Patrick, a man who recently lost his wife of 6 years. He turns Edie’s life up-side-down and the real story begins.
There are a few mysteries to solve in The Possessions. First, how did Patrick’s wife Sylvia really die? Second, what is Edie running away from in her past? And lastly, who is Hopeful Doe? The author answers the first question to my satisfaction. However, it was the last two questions that left me wanting more and left me feeling slightly dissatisfied at the end. I don’t want to spoil anything if you haven’t read the book! There is a resolution but I thought that it could have played out a little longer, with a few more details. The Possessions is thought-provoking on so many levels and I wanted Sarah Flannery Murphy to delve further into this world that she created.
Who makes the Lotus Pill? What has stopped other companies from hiring bodies to steal the pill and replicate it? What are the effects of the replicas? How did the Elysian society begin? What are the rules surrounding bringing someone back and how could this be regulated? Is there a limit on how long someone can be gone before being brought back? I also thought that Hopeful Doe might have been one of many. Murphy glossed over this too quickly for me.
The Possessions was my favorite book of the year. It left me thinking long after I finished the last page. I’m looking forward to other books Sarah Flannery Murphy writes.
“This was the future, Izzy decided, which was never the future you imagined.” – Kevin Wilson, Perfect Little World
Kirsten’s Pick – Perfect Little World by Kevin Wilson
Immediately upon reading the synopsis, I knew Perfect Little World was for me. I adore when a book comes up with a story that I haven’t read in some form or another before. Part One starts off with 19-year-old, newly pregnant Izzy as she is contemplating joining a community based study of ten families raising their children collectively as one large family. We also learn about how Dr. Grind receives funding for the project as well as his own childhood experiences.
Part Two follows Izzy and her son Cap as they navigate the Infinite Family Project, which they ultimately decide to join. The author does an excellent job of keeping the story moving by checking in on the participants for a few days every year and then moving on. This method of story telling allows the reader to see progression in the family dynamics and get up to speed on changes in how the program is run (for instance in year 5 the children live alone with their respective parents after moving out of their communal bedroom.)
Dr. Grind and his researchers soon found that the children were going to thrive but the parents were the wild cards. It was better than watching a reality show. Kevin Wilson sucked me in completely. I kept having to remind myself that I was not reading about a real study. It felt authentic and true to the unpredictability of human nature.
Perfect Little World is my favorite book of the year thus far. I hesitate to give the full 5 stars because the ending wrapped up too soon! I really wanted to see how they adjusted to live in the “Real world” when the study was over.
What did you pick for your Book of the Month Club selection this month? What did you think of your reads?The Possessions by Sara Flannery Murphy
Published by HarperCollins on February 7th 2017
Genres: Fiction, Thrillers, Psychological, Literary, Romance, Suspense
Buy on Amazon
"I was totally immersed in the strange, beautiful world of Sara Flannery Murphy’s The Possessions. A gripping, chilling read that’s part love story, part mystery, and completely original, it’s sensuous, scary, and utterly thrilling. I’ve never read anything quite like it." —Anton DiSclafani, author of The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls
"An enthralling meditation on grief and memory cloaked in suspenseful psychodrama, The Possessions dissolves the boundaries of past and present and artfully, heartbreakingly maps the consequences of transgressive desire. Sara Flannery Murphy has written the best kind of ghost story." —Robin Wasserman, author of Girls on Fire
In this electrifying literary debut, a young woman who channels the dead for a living crosses a dangerous line when she falls in love with one of her clients, whose wife died under mysterious circumstances.
In an unnamed city, Eurydice works for the Elysian Society, a private service that allows grieving clients to reconnect with lost loved ones. She and her fellow workers, known as "bodies", wear the discarded belongings of the dead and swallow pills called lotuses to summon their spirits—numbing their own minds and losing themselves in the process. Edie has been a body at the Elysian Society for five years, an unusual record. Her success is the result of careful detachment: she seeks refuge in the lotuses’ anesthetic effects and distances herself from making personal connections with her clients.
But when Edie channels Sylvia, the dead wife of recent widower Patrick Braddock, she becomes obsessed with the glamorous couple. Despite the murky circumstances surrounding Sylvia’s drowning, Edie breaks her own rules and pursues Patrick, moving deeper into his life and summoning Sylvia outside the Elysian Society’s walls.
After years of hiding beneath the lotuses’ dulling effect, Edie discovers that the lines between her own desires and those of Sylvia have begun to blur, and takes increasing risks to keep Patrick within her grasp. Suddenly, she finds her quiet life unraveling as she grapples not only with Sylvia’s growing influence and the questions surrounding her death, but with her own long-buried secrets.
A tale of desire and obsession, deceit and dark secrets that defies easy categorization, The Possessions is a seductive, absorbing page-turner that builds to a shattering, unforgettable conclusion.
“Wilson’s ambition alone is exciting. . . . [His] writing has a Houdini-like perfection, wherein no matter how grim the variables, each lovely sentence manages to escape with all its parts intact.” —Boston Globe
When Isabelle Poole meets Dr. Preston Grind, she’s fresh out of high school, pregnant with her art teacher's baby, and totally on her own. Izzy knows she can be a good mother but without any money or relatives to help, she’s left searching.
Dr. Grind, an awkwardly charming child psychologist, has spent his life studying family, even after tragedy struck his own. Now, with the help of an eccentric billionaire, he has the chance to create a “perfect little world”—to study what would happen when ten children are raised collectively, without knowing who their biological parents are. He calls it The Infinite Family Project and he wants Izzy and her son to join.
This attempt at a utopian ideal starts off promising, but soon the gentle equilibrium among the families disintegrates: unspoken resentments between the couples begin to fester; the project's funding becomes tenuous; and Izzy’s growing feelings for Dr. Grind make her question her participation in this strange experiment in the first place.
Written with the same compassion and charm that won over legions of readers with The Family Fang, Kevin Wilson shows us with grace and humor that the best families are the ones we make for ourselves.