I hardly know what to say about this book. I found it in my library’s OverDrive ebook catalog, looking the books they had by Catherynne Valente, because I’ve intended to read more of her work for a few years now. (I’ve previously read Deathless and Space Opera.) I read most of it on Thursday, but it’s very densely written, so I took a break and finished it the next day. I happened to stop just before the plot twist, though, or I don’t think I would have.
‘This novella is a kind of surburban horror, about a woman named Sophia in a gated community called Arcadia Gardens. The essence of this type of story is the horror of conformity. The book opens with an excerpt from the local homeowner’s association agreement, and additional excerpts precede each chapter of the book, as the rules described become more and more draconian and disturbing. Now that I stop to think about it, I’m surprised I haven’t seen “bizarre HOA agreements” as a plot device in horror before. Valente creates a powerful sense that Something Is Wrong Here, but it becomes a completely different book when you find out why.
I spent some time searching the internet for discussion and commentary after I read this book, and I want to recommend 2 different podcast episodes:
– One from CastleBridge Media, which is 30 minutes and doesn’t reveal major details of the book. A great discussion with the author about her inspirations and writing process.
– And another from Breaking the Glass Slipper: Perfect Women With Cat Valente, which is a completely different discussion because this time, they discuss the plot twist and its implications. This one is just under 50 minutes.