In the Long Island oceanfront community of Mattauk, three different women discover that midlife changes bring a whole new type of empowerment…
After Nessa James’s husband dies and her twin daughters leave for college, she’s left all alone in a trim white house not far from the ocean. In the quiet of her late forties, the former nurse begins to hear voices. It doesn’t take long for Nessa to realise that the voices calling out to her belong to the dead—a gift she’s inherited from her grandmother, which comes with special responsibilities.
On the cusp of 50, suave advertising director Harriett Osborne has just witnessed the implosion of her lucrative career and her marriage. She hasn’t left her house in months, and from the outside, it appears as if she and her garden have both gone to seed. But Harriet’s life is far from over—in fact, she’s undergone a stunning and very welcome metamorphosis.
Ambitious former executive Jo Levison has spent thirty long years at war with her body. The free-floating rage and hot flashes that arrive with the beginning of menopause feel like the very last straw—until she realises she has the ability to channel them, and finally comes into her power.
Guided by voices only Nessa can hear, the trio of women discover a teenage girl whose body was abandoned beside a remote beach. The police have written the victim off as a drug-addicted sex worker, but the women refuse to buy into the official narrative. Their investigation into the girl’s murder leads to more bodies, and to the town’s most exclusive and isolated enclave, a world of stupendous wealth where the rules don’t apply. With their newfound powers, Jo, Nessa, and Harriet will take matters into their own hands…
“No one teaches girls how to take care of themselves. We train them to be pretty and kind and polite right before we set them loose in a world filled with wolves. Then we act surprised and horrified when some of them get eaten.”
Nessa James, Harriet Osborne & Jo Levinson couldn’t be more different from one another. But one dead girl, and the mystery of her death, will being them together in ways no one could imagine. Nessa James has empty house syndrome after her two children left for college, that is until she starts seeing spirits, a gift that has run in her family for generations. Harriet Osborne lost her husband and her job in one fell swoop, something that would destroy most people, but instead Harriet re-built herself into something better, something bigger, something more dangerous. Jo Levinson has been the bread winner of her family for years, and has spent every single one of them at war with her body. Unable to control the fierce heat that roils inside her, the hot spikes of her menopause are sure to push her over the edge. When the three women find a dead body, and don’t believe the official narrative surrounding her death, they start to investigate themselves, and what they find is a conspiracy years in the making, one that with little proof the police wont act on. So Nessa, Harriet and Jo will just have to take matters into their own hands.
This is a story filled with rage, and Miller shows this through our three menopausal MC’s. Nessa is the softer of the three, the one whose job it is to speak for those who can’t speak for themselves. Some would say she has the hardest job, having to look dead people in the eye and promise justice, which is exactly what she does to the nameless girl she finds on the beach. Harriet has been named the town witch, something she does nothing to disparage, after loosing her husband and job and leaving her garden to grow full of weeds and dangerous, sometimes lethal plants. She creates tonics and aids to help women, and punish the men that hurt them. Jo owns the only gym in Mattauk where women can go to actually work out and not strut around like it’s a fashion contest, started because Jo herself needed somewhere to go when her heat became unbearable and she needed to run, or punch it off, that is until he learns to funnel that heat into something useful, something dangerous. Every single one of these women know pain, know what it’s like to grow in a world built solely for me, and they are all more than willing to punish those men when the need arises.
Nessa, Harriet and Jo are brought together to investigate the death of a young girl, which turns out to be the death of multiple young girls going back years. They are the only ones not willing to believe the narrative set out by the police, that this girl who no one knows, no one has a name for, must have been a drug user and overdosed, never questioning how she ended up in a bin bag placed on the side of the road. But alongside this is the mystery of what is happening to our three characters. Miller changes the narrative around menopause, she ignores the taboo about talking about women’s bodily functions and brings all the changes, good and bad to light. Shes uses the fantasy element to make these changes bigger and better, something to embrace, rather than shy away from. She shows that a woman’s life doesn’t end with their menopause, rather they metomophasize into something new and better.
It’s hard not to get angry reading this story, seeing the slights and general uncaring nature of the police when a young woman gets murdered, especially if she comes from the wrong side of town. But what really makes you angry is knowing this kind of shit happens all the time. We live in a world run by men, who see women as lesser, as assets to be used rather than someone on equal footing, playthings to use and dispose of as they wish. But the thing she really brings to light in this book is that not all women are allies, most of us are, but there are others out there who are more than willing to throw others under the bus if it furthers their goals, and these women are almost worse than the men. It’s blunt in parts, and almost over the top in others, but she uses these to show that women aren’t going to go down without a fight, and I loved every single bit of it.
I’ve been eager to get my hands on this book since it was announced and it’s fair to say it hit the spot for me. This is the latest in angry feminist fiction I’ve been reading lately and I am loving reading characters and stories that validate my feelings, that make me understand there are other people out there who feel the injustice of the world just as much as I do. You should read this book if you like your fantasy on the subtler side, characters who aren’t defined by society and who absolutely kick ass when needed, and a heartbreaking mystery to get your teeth stuck in to. An easy 4/5 stars, and I can’t wait to see what Miller has in store for us next.