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Book: “Mary: An Awakening of Terror” by Nat Cassidy
Publishing Info: Tor Nightfire, July 2022
Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from NetGalley.
Book Description: Mary is a quiet, middle-aged woman doing her best to blend into the background. Unremarkable. Invisible. Unknown even to herself.
But lately, things have been changing inside Mary. Along with the hot flashes and body aches, she can’t look in a mirror without passing out, and the voices in her head have been urging her to do unspeakable things.
Fired from her job in New York, she moves back to her hometown, hoping to reconnect with her past and inner self. Instead, visions of terrifying, mutilated specters overwhelm her with increasing regularity and she begins auto-writing strange thoughts and phrases. Mary discovers that these experiences are echoes of an infamous serial killer.
Then the killings begin again.
Mary’s definitely going to find herself.
Review: Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this novel!
I’m a little reluctant to give a concrete number as to the amount of ARCs I got at ALA Annual in June, as the number is staggering and a little out of control. And yet in spite of these numbers I won’t disclose, there were a few books I was hoping I’d pick up but were unable to obtain either because they weren’t there or the timing was off. So I ran to NetGalley and grabbed the titles I wanted that way, which works out just as well (and far more compact in terms of storage, really). One of those books was “Mary: An Awakening of Terror” by Nat Cassidy. I had my eye on it for awhile, as it touts being in similar veins as “Carrie” and “Midsommar”, which catch my eye for varying reasons. And really, look at that cover. Just disturbing as hell right from the jump. By the time I was fully submerged in the story, however, I was a little adrift, feeling like perhaps I had bitten off a little more than I could chew, thematics wise…
First, what I did like about it. And there is a lot to like about this book! Firstly, I liked how Cassidy really wanted to give a unique voice in a horror novel the spotlight. Our main character Mary Mudgett is a middle aged woman who feels invisible, who is experiencing perimenopause, and who is pretty alone in the world. She returns to her hometown after a decades long absence, a bit nervous to return to a place where she was so tormented by her peers and her aunt Nadine. I thought that Cassidy really brought forth the voice of a middle aged woman who feels left behind and forgotten about, and how he tapped into the horrors of societal expectations of aging, misogyny, and isolation and anxiety so authentically. I also thought that a lot of the aspects he explored in this book in terms of plots, from reincarnation to small town secrets to body horror were all very well done, and came together in unique ways that really got his story across. Also, major props to him for addressing his choice to give a middle aged woman a voice when he himself is a younger cishet man, and how he tried his best to be authentic in her voice and experiences. Also, he clearly has a lot of love for “Carrie”, as in his author’s note he explains that Mary is a reimagining of a woman like Carrie who does make it past the night of Prom, and what that would look like.
But here is the thing. Like many fans of horror (and really all kinds of genres), I am someone who has topics and themes that really work for her, and other topics and themes that really don’t. And “Mary: An Awakening of Terror” is incredibly brutal in a lot of ways, and brutality heaped upon me over and over again can wear me down a bit. I was really happy that Cassidy put a thorough content warning before the story began, because I was able to prepare myself a bit before digging in, but even with the content warning I still had moments where I just had to put the book down for a bit. I won’t spoil anything, but there were three vivid moments where I was fairly put off by what I was reading on the page, and one in particular where I almost stopped reading altogether. At the end of the day, this book was a bit too brutal for me. So we’re kind of in the midst of a review that may be more based on preference than actual content. But one thing to keep in mind is that I’m someone who can tolerate a fair amount of horror nonsense in her reading and consuming of other media. It’s rare that I find myself almost abandoning something because of its brutality. So this book may be too brutal for others as well.
Overall, I really liked the voice that Nat Cassidy gave Mary Mudgett, and I liked some of the creative and scary aspects of the novel as well. But at times it wasn’t an experience I was enjoying in the moment because of the content. Your mileage may vary.
Rating 6: Scary and brutal, but perhaps a bit too much so for this reader.
“Mary: An Awakening of Terror” is included on the Goodreads list “Anticipated 2022 Horror/Thriller Releases”.