Disclaimer: Catriona McPherson’s A Gingerbread House is dedicated to me, Kristopher Zgorski, so some readers may justifiably feel that I would be biased in my opinions of the novel. However, I am confident that the following review retains the high level of honesty and objectiveness as all reviews on BOLO Books, but I did want to be as forthcoming as possible with this unique situation, allowing readers to make their own decisions on whether to read on.
Once Upon a Time…
on Loch Road in Hephaw, Scotland there was a fairytale cottage nestled among growing vegetation – separated from society, but still a part of it. In this home, two sisters lived. Some would call them odd, some would say eccentric; but everyone knows there is a thin line between peculiar and bad-shit crazy.
“Dead people don’t talk.”
In small communities around the area, three single women are going about their lives. Ivy Stone, Martine MacAllister, and Laura Wade. They are as different as can be – different ages, different races, different backgrounds, and different desires – but they are bonded under the umbrella of womanhood. It is this part of their nature that brings them to the doors of that fantasy house on Loch Road, but nothing could prepare them for what they find inside.
“Dead people don’t need anything.”
Natasha Dodd is a working stiff, who is about to make a discovery that will shatter her idyllic vision of the Dodd Family. She will use the delivery van – a symbol of the empire her father has built – to expose the truth, but little does she know that a passing glimpse of a lonely woman heading out on a date will lead her down a twisted path to an even more shocking final act.
And they all lived happily ever after…perhaps.
Catriona McPherson nails the fairytale motif in A Gingerbread House. What we often think of as charming bedtime stories to read to our children are in fact morality tale designed to elucidate hidden truths. In the case of A Gingerbread House, it is a reminder that women are always in danger, that life is lived with the burden of fear in constant proximity, ready to rear its ugly head at the most unexpected – and opportune – moments. In particular, women of a certain age and sociological situation become invisible and have no one to advocate for them. They can be easily forgotten and overlooked by the masses and media, despite society’s tendency and inclination to make everything as dramatic and ominous as possible.
But A Gingerbread House also shows that women are resilient, no shrinking violets among them, and when they put their minds to something, nothing can hold them back. Readers will see examples of how society fabricates these illusions and fantasies that in retrospect seem impossible to achieve – and even almost undesirable when examined too closely. Readers will then see how women can band together to break free of these artificial constraints, to forge a new path through the forest.
A Gingerbread House is a creepy read. The early chapters are written with cliffhanger endings designed to leave the reader wondering what in the hell is going on. As the threads of the story begin to intertwine, the reality of the situation dawns on the reader and the suspense level – already bubbling under the surface – skyrockets. One wonders if McPherson will be able to stick this landing, but rest assured she does so in spades – answering all the questions readers have, while leaving enough wiggle-room for personal interpretation. This is an unusual novel and as such, it is likely that not all readers will want to take this journey. In particular, the final act can be too much to bear. The truth of the matter is that these characters are in dire circumstances and the only available solution feels too horrific to imagine, but needs must and Catriona McPherson is not afraid to go there. Those that do make it to the other side are justly rewarded, though likely to run straight to the shower all the same. A Gingerbread House is one of those books that will linger in the reader’s memory long after finishing. In many ways, it works as a perfect companion novel to Come To Harm, one of Catriona McPherson’s earlier successes.
Disclaimer: I purchased this novel, but a print version of this title was also provided to BOLO Books by the author. No promotion was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.