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Monday, September 18, 2023

Book Review: Black Sheep by Rachel Harrison

Black Sheep
by Rachel Harrison
September 19, 2023
Rachel Harrison is a rising star in the new wave of horror. The New York Times raves, “Rachel Harrison’s feminist horror novels are some of the most original and entertaining out there.” Her debut, The Return, was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award and Such Sharp Teeth, Cackle, and Bad Dolls have received national media attention from The New York Times, USA Today, Woman’s World, Buzzfeed, Forbes and more. Now, in BLACK SHEEP she is back to explore the way family ties can bind us as we struggle to define our own separate identities.

A cynical twentysomething must confront her unconventional family’s dark secrets in this fiery, irreverent horror novel from the author of Such Sharp Teeth and Cackle.

Nobody has a “normal” family, but Vesper Wright’s is truly...something else. Vesper left home at eighteen and never looked back—mostly because she was told that leaving the staunchly religious community she grew up in meant she couldn’t return. But then an envelope arrives on her doorstep.

Inside is an invitation to the wedding of Vesper’s beloved cousin Rosie. It’s to be hosted at the family farm. Have they made an exception to the rule? It wouldn’t be the first time Vesper’s been given special treatment. Is the invite a sweet gesture? An olive branch? A trap? Doesn’t matter. Something inside her insists she go to the wedding. Even if it means returning to the toxic environment she escaped. Even if it means reuniting with her mother, Constance, a former horror film star and forever ice queen.

When Vesper’s homecoming exhumes a terrifying secret, she’s forced to reckon with her family’s beliefs and her own crisis of faith in this deliciously sinister novel that explores the way family ties can bind us as we struggle to find our place in the world.

Vesper finds an envelope on the doorstep of her apartment that has a wedding invitation for her cousin and former boyfriend. She goes to the wedding, returning to the house of her horror movie scream queen mother, Constance, where she grew up. Back to her religious community. Not just any religion, but one that worships Lucifer: Satanists. She will be forced to confront her family and community’s beliefs, where she finds that dark family ties bind her, that being the black sheep of the family may have more sinister truth then she realizes.

Rachel Harrison brings a story of family and faith that holds an undercurrent of horror. That sometimes shows we don’t know who we really are, until it might be too late. If Rosemary’s Baby was blended with Snow White, this book might be The Omen for the 21st Century.

I give Black Sheep 4 ½ devilish sheep

Reviewer: Pamela K. Kinney

About the Author:

Rachel Harrison is the national bestselling author of BLACK SHEEP, SUCH SHARP TEETH, CACKLE and THE RETURN, which was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel. Her short fiction has appeared in Guernica, Electric Literature's Recommended Reading, as an Audible Original, and in her debut story collection BAD DOLLS. She lives in western New York with her husband and their cat/overlord.

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