Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Summer Reading 2022: The Cherry Robbers by Sarai Walker


This was one odd, haunting, dysfunctional family wallop of a novel. 

It's 1950, and we're introduced to the Chapel sisters: Aster, Rosalind, Calla, Daphne, Iris, and Hazel. The Chapel family is famous for gun and rifle manufacturing that has helped settle the West and win wars. Their father works every day, and they live in the town of Bellflower Village in an ornate Victorian home surrounded by acres of land. 

Their mother sees the ghosts of all of the victims of the Chapel firearms. She screams, like clockwork, every night. She hates her husband, but loves her daughters even though she's clearly got a lot of issues and can't be a very good mother. 

On their annual trek to the Atlantic Ocean, Aster meets a handsome young man, and after dating for a bit, they become engaged and plan a big wedding. Only problem is, the closer the wedding approaches, the more mother gets worked up, claiming if the wedding isn't postponed, something horrible will happen. Iris believes her mother, and does her part (as much as a small child can do) to try and disrupt and postpone the wedding. 

Well, it doesn't work, and Aster's wedding proceeds. It seems mother was wrong. 

Except the next morning, Aster's new husband returns with Aster, clad in a honeymoon nightgown, clearly not well. What follows is a horrible nightmare for the Chapel family, as Aster dies one day after her wedding day. To prevent a scandal, the doctor claims it was simply the flu, and Aster is buried less than a week after she walked down the aisle. 

Okay, weird. However, the pattern repeats itself...until it's very clear the Chapel sisters are cursed, somehow. There are possible explanations, of course, that go back through their mother's line; however, there's just enough fuzzy-wuzzy info to make you wonder if it's all real or just horrible bad luck. 

One daughter escapes this fate. The novel begins in 2017, when she receives a letter from someone claiming to know who she really is; her current name and fame as a well-known feminist artist are fake and she's actually a Chapel girl. It's been sixty years since those horrible days, and now she will be outed. Is it time to relive those memories, and spill the story of her bizarre family curse?

I was fascinated by this novel. The sisters were all definitely different characters and I felt they were well-drawn and strong women. The atmosphere of the entire novel was what really grabbed me: haunting, melancholy, and slightly off-kilter. Kind of gothic in flavor; I had to remind myself this took place in the 1950's. There's a lot to unpack in this novel and it would make a great book discussion novel. There's much to discuss about female sexuality, mental health, family issues, sisterhood, LGBTQ, and so. much. more. 

Rating: 5/6 for a novel that had me captivated and wondering just what the heck was going to happen next. The Chapel sisters are quite simply unforgettable, and this is one tale that will leave you pondering and thinking about it for days after you've turned the last page. 

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audio book. 

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