The Barter is a ghost story and a love story, a riveting emotional tale that also explores motherhood and work and feminism. Set in Texas, in present day, and at the turn of the twentieth century, the novel follows two young mothers at the turning point of their lives.
Bridget has given up her career as an attorney to raise her daughter, joining a cadre of stay-at-home mothers seeking fulfillment in a quiet suburb. But for Bridget, some crucial part of the exchange is absent: Something she loves and needs. And now a terrifying presence has entered her home; only nobody but Bridget can feel it.
On a farm in 1902, a young city bride takes a farmer husband. The marriage bed will become both crucible and anvil as Rebecca first allows, then negates, the powerful erotic connection between them. She turns her back on John to give all her love to their child. Much will occur in this cold house, none of it good.
As Siobhan Adcock crosscuts these stories with mounting tension, each woman arrives at a terrible ordeal of her own making, tinged with love and fear and dread. What will they sacrifice to save their families—and themselves? Readers will slow down to enjoy the gorgeous language, then speed up to see what happens next in a plot that thrums with the weight of decision—and its explosive consequences. (Summary and Pic from goodreads.com)
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
My Review: Right off the bat this book grips you. The cover alone is super creepy, and it doesn’t take long before you see that you’re going to be totally creeped out the whole time. The characters may be crazy (cause they are totally self-destructive, which I will get to), but the strength of this book is definitely its creepiness. A ghost living in your house that only you and your baby can see? Totally creepy. And the ghost is creepy, too—really scary looking, ethereal, seeming to want something but no matter what the characters do it won’t be placated…that is scary stuff, people. Not being safe in your own home because of things out of your control is something that is really scary to me. No refuge, no place to go to escape, no home base…it’s enough to freak anybody out.
This book is well-written. It is easy to get into and the characters are well-developed and realistic when they need to be and over-the-top perfect when they need to be as well. It obviously serves a purpose when they aren’t as fleshed out, which was a writing technique I appreciated. That said, I really, really did not like the main characters. I think my main problem is that I really have a hard time with characters who are self destructive, seemingly willingly so. Sometimes they’re stubborn, sometimes they’re vindictive, sometimes a mixture of both, but it is hard to watch people who are purposely destroying their lives and seem completely unable to step back and make any decisions that aren’t completely based on their own selfish determination to ruin everything for themselves and those around them. Yes, I do realize that this happens in real life, yes I do realize that there are people that are like this, but it doesn’t mean that I enjoy reading about it, especially when there are children involved who are affected by the ridiculousness of the adults around them. And that’s what it was in this book—in fact, that was the entire purpose. Two women, unconnected, who ruin their lives of their own volition.
That was another thing that bothered me about the book—there were these two stories going on and they weren’t connected—not really—except in a somewhat confusing way at the end (which I will not give away to avoid spoilers) and so it made the book confusing. It’s not that I didn’t find either story interesting—because they were each interesting in their own right—but I’m not sure how they both got wrapped up together in one. It’s like the author had two different books she wanted to write but decided to combine them in one book and connect them somewhat randomly.
Because of the confusing conclusion and because I really didn’t like the main characters, I’m only giving this book three stars. The writing itself was good, and holds up well in the genre for sure, but the story was just weird and confusing.
My Rating: 3 stars
For the sensitive reader: There is some language and some discussion of sex in an abstract way, although it is not violent or offensive. This book is scary, though, and the ghost is really creepy.