Thursday, December 31, 2020

Mistletoe by Alison Littlewood

After losing both her son and her husband, Leah is looking for change. 

And change is what she's getting after leaving the city behind and moving to Maitland Farm. The farm had been her husband's idea, originally. Leah is a Maitland, after all, so it seemed fortuitous when he found the listing. Now Leah has taken on the responsibility of bringing the farm back to life on her own, in hopes the massive undertaking will provide distraction as well as a fresh start. 

But Leah soon discovers that Maitland Farm has a dark history. A history that hangs over the land and weighs on everything it touches. A history that Leah isn't certain she wants to claim as her own. 

I don't recall when I first heard about the Victorian tradition of telling ghost stories on Christmas Eve, but it's a tradition I am 100% here for—reading, rather than telling in my case. And when you pair that with the delightful Icelandic tradition of gifting books on Christmas Eve and then spending the evening reading said books, well it's book nerd heaven!

I was trying to decide what this year's Christmas Eve ghost-y read would be when I stumbled upon a list of creepy holiday tales, a few of which I'd read and a few of which, including Mistletoe, I hadn't. It was kismet :)

I will start by saying that I expected to have a tough time reading this one. It's about a woman who's lost her son and her husband, neither of which are things I want to consider! Fortunately, Littlewood's expertise at atmosphere and chilling stories outweighed my post-partum anxiety associated with anything about dying kids!

Leah is moving to the middle of nowhere after her life has been upended. And it's understandable. It's the holiday season and she's alone, so why not start over in a place where you won't be reminded of the life you once had. 

Almost from the start, Leah experiences weirdness on the farm. Sounds that have to be more than the old house settling, a feeling of being watched...and then she spies a little boy playing in the barn. But both the boy and the odd doll he's carrying are very real—at least real enough for Leah to touch. The vision she has after touching the doll, though, that's a different story. 

As I mentioned, Littlewood is great at building atmosphere! The combination of remote setting, snow upon snow upon snow, and the sadness that hovers over Leah and her new home make Mistletoe an absolutely perfect creepy read for winter. And the folklore around mistletoe adds to that. 

Mistletoe isn't actually out in the States, so you'll have to order it through a venue that'll bring in imports. For that I am sorry—the Brits really do excellent horror, though!—I'm also sorry that I didn't get this one posted in time for a Christmas Eve recommendation if you also seek festive scary reads. But you can savor it any time (or save it for next year). 


Tammy Sparks said...

This is the first review of this I've read, and I'm intrigued! I'm hoping its going to be released in the US soon.

Dianna said...

Count me in for a ghost story anytime! Looks like it is available on Amazon -- adding it to my wishlist!