The Invited by Jennifer McMahon
The Invited is described as “a chilling ghost story with a twist”, which captured my attention completely!
Helen and Nate are tired of their comfortable yet exhausting life in suburbia. When Helen inherits money after her dad passes away, she and Nate decide to build their dream home – with their own hands – in rural Vermont.
As luck would have it, there is a highly motivated seller ready to unpack a forty-four acre property. When Helen and Nate place a low offer, they’re surprised when it’s quickly accepted.
Helen becomes fascinated with local history, namely the legend of Hattie Breckenridge, a woman suspected of being a witch who lived and died on their property almost a century ago.
“This land–their new home–was meant to be; it had been waiting for them, calling to them. But the thought was not entirely a warm and comforting one; no, it was more like a prickle on the back of the neck. It both drew her to the place and made her want to get in the car and race all the way back to their condo in Connecticut.” *
While building their home, Helen and Nate discover that a local teen named Olive believes Hattie Breckenridge left behind buried treasure near the bog on their property. Olive has been trying to scare away the new owners with some creepy late night antics but once caught, she offers to help with work on the home to pay back damages.
We learn through alternating chapters that Olive’s had a rough home life recently because the small town gossip mill is churning out stories about her mom’s disappearance. Everyone thinks she ran off with an unknown man she was rumored to be having an affair with.
Olive introduces Helen to her aunt Riley, a local historian who knows quite a bit about the history of Hattie Breckenridge. While the two women are researching the mystery of what happened to Hattie’s daughter, Helen is searching for locally sourced building materials for her home when she finds a header beam at the salvage yard that is connected to the story of Hattie Breckenridge.
“She reached up, touched the header beam in the doorway. She imagined it had a pulse like a living thing. A living thing with a memory of its own. And maybe, just maybe, the power to call someone back. A historical artifact turned talisman. What if objects didn’t just hold memories, but held traces of the people who’d touched them, threads that connected them still?” *
With each new item she brings into the home they’re building, Helen seems to be conjuring Hattie, who is leading Helen to something …or someone.
“How could she explain it? This feeling she had, uncovering little pieces of truth about these women and the lives they led. It was like Hattie wanted her to find them. Hattie was guiding her, helping her to bring them all together like this, these generations of Breckenridge women. And now, to save one of them.” *
Helen is building a haunted house that gets her closer to finding out what Hattie wants while Olive is searching for clues into her mother’s disappearance. They are seeking answers that could lead them to each other in surprising and unexpected ways.
The Invited was not what I expected but in a great way! I was expecting a horror story about malicious spirits in a creepy house and was surprised to get a paranormal mystery covering several generations of women.
When Helen began to collect the “talismans” for her home, I was rolling my eyes and thinking, “Oh Helen, what are you doing? Bless your heart, you’re just asking to be haunted and possessed.”
Imagine my surprise when I realized that was definitely not the direction this story was headed after all!
While most of the plot twists were obvious, I was unsure of one until the very end. This was an atmospheric gothic mystery that held my attention from start to finish. The history of the Breckenridge women was compelling and the present day stories of Helen and Olive and how they tied into the past were well done!
Thanks to Doubleday and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. The Invited is scheduled for release on April 30, 2019.
*Quotes included are from a digital advance readers copy and are subject to change upon final publication.