Thank you to Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley for sending me an eArc of It Will Just Be Us in exchange for review consideration.
I love Women in Horror Month. I find new names to add to my TBR, boost my favorites, and find genuine camaraderie in the women horror community on Twitter. If you haven't checked it out yet, you're truly missing a great opportunity. And while this title isn't due to be published until late summer, I will definitely be talking it up until then.
It Will Just Be Us is a creepy, Gothic tale that gave me Shirley Jackson vibes. Samantha returns home to live with her mother just as her sister, eight months pregnant, arrives after a fight with her husband. While their relationship is pivotal to the plot, it's difficult for me to pin down exactly what the focus of this story is. Family? History? Mysticism? The land? Time? Legends? Yes, to all the above. The sisters are at the forefront, but the real star is the house. Rich with horrifying history and very real ghosts, Sam regards the house as its own character, a living thing with its own unidentifiable agenda. Built by Mad Catherine, the house is constantly changing, a maze where even the family still gets lost if they aren't careful. This reminded me so much of Stephen King's Rose Red--a trait which really worked for me. Each room acts as a conduit for memories, ghosts of everyone who lived in the house and their moments echoing through time. They appear without warning, playing out their lives on a loop, and Samantha approaches them like any other chore. How can I make the bed when there's a dead body in it now? But the closer Elizabeth gets to her due date, the more Samantha is haunted by a faceless entity--malevolent and dangerous and truly terrifying. We see the effect the house has on the women who live there, but we also see how it affects men, specifically one who has a history of violence. Elizabeth's husband Don goes from estranged husband with a temper to a violent, vengeful presence in the course of a few chapters. The descent into madness, however, is subject to interpretation. Is he really the villain, or is he the hero? An antihero, maybe, but we can't really tell for sure, because we've been following Samantha's rationale, and we see what she wants us to see. Kaplan's use of perspective shines in this aspect. Culminating in a heart-pounding series of events that I will not discuss because the unraveling timeline is one of the best parts of the story, we see the strings of memories connect and extend, and watch as Samantha is faced with past, present, and future. Just. Wow. I'm still speechless. Sam's voice and interaction with her sister reminded me of We Have Always Lived in the Castle. There's a formality to her speech that strategically alienates her from a contemporary tone. There are cell phones and power lines, but they feel removed from the text. Another world. This feels deliberate and only enhances the isolation she feels in the house. Kaplan's skillful handling of diction and atmosphere is beautiful and effortless but powerful. For fans of Rose Red and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, It Will Just Be Us is a must-read in 2020. 10/10 would recommend.