Upstate New York in the early 1970s and George and Catherine Clare move into a farmhouse at the foot of the hill. Previously, the hub of a working dairy farm, the house feels haunted by the woman who held it all together and, unbeknown to Catherine, died along with her husband in the master bedroom. Because of this unhappy legacy, the Clares got it cheap, which causes some resentment in the close-knit community centred on Chosen, the nearby town. Yet George, a professor of art history at the local college, charms them initially, but it’s Catherine, a former artist and now stay-at-home mother of three-year-old Franny, whom they take into their hearts. So everyone is shocked and saddened when George comes home one evening to find her with an axe through her head.
While I could have done without the spirit and spiritual side, I found this a psychologically astute portrayal of an abusive marriage (reminiscent of The Wacky Man) and of a credible psychopath (see also Trencherman). For another novel with an estate agent – or, as they’re both American, I should say realtor – as point of view character, see The Good House. The unprofitable farm also reminded me of the novel, Soil. To discover more about the setting of this novel, see this post on The Book Trail Thanks to Quercus books for my review copy.