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Monday, March 15, 2021

Cult-or-Commune Thriller a Pretty Ho-Hum Read

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

After the unexpected death of her husband, Laura Evans is struggling to make sense out of everything.  She doesn't understand how her cautious spouse could have fallen at the construction site where he was working, especially after hours.  She has no idea how she's going to pay the bills while a stalled inquest halts insurance payments.  She can barely cope with Tilly, her hostile teenage daughter, who's full of grief and attitude.  Losing her husband, her home, and her struggling flower shop leaves Laura with no money, no support, and no future.  How will she and Tilly survive?

When she and Tilly are offered a place at a commune-style organics farm in the Welsh countryside called Gorphwysfa (Resting Place), Laura has little choice but to take it.  The community's charismatic leader, 27-year-old Alex Draycott, is welcoming and Laura feels herself relaxing for the first time since her husband's death.  It's not long, though, before strange things start happening to Laura and Tilly, things that make Laura question whether Gorphwysfa is a dream or a nightmare.  Tilly's happy at the commune, but as Laura digs deeper into the place's secrets, she grows more and more alarmed.  What is really going on at Gorphwysfa?  Are its gates protecting Laura and Tilly from the outside world or are they imprisoning them, barring its inmates from rescue?  Will the grief-stricken women ever find healing and peace?

Other than its Welsh setting, there's nothing very original about The Family by Louise Jensen.  It's your typical "Is this really a safe, bucolic commune for damaged people or is it a creepy, megalomaniac-led cult that will steal both your money and your soul?" novel.  Laura and Tilly are sympathetic characters, but they're not super smart ones.  Laura's actions after arriving at Gorphwysfa make little sense.  Tilly's decisions are just as dumb, but at least hers can be explained by the ignorance of youth.  Although Alex is described as charming, I found him repugnant from the get-go.  It makes no sense that all the women are in love with him.  Ick.  As far as plot goes, the story moves along at a steady pace.  While I saw most of the twists coming, a couple took me by surprise.  Enough happened in the book to keep me reading, but by the end, I was plowing through just to get it over with, really.  In the end, then, I found The Family to be a pretty ho-hum read.  I doubt I'll revisit this author.

(Readalikes:  Hmmm, I can't think of anything.  You?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language, violence, sexual content, blood/gore, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of The Family with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.

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