cover image The Barter

The Barter

Siobhan Adcock. Dutton, $26.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-525-95422-4

Motherhood is the destabilizing bond that nearly undoes two women linked across a century in Adcock’s suspenseful debut. Former attorney and new mother Bridget is sitting up with her wailing 10-month-old daughter, Julie, when she first senses a ghost in her Austin, Tex., home. The ghost appears to be the spirit of a dead woman. Or is it? Sometimes the presence looks like nothing more than an enormous white cloud. What’s clear is that Bridget is conflicted, whether about leaving her job; relying on her husband, Mark, as he spends more and more time at his tech startup; or indulging her own fears and anxiety when “she should be grateful.” As Bridget spins out in the suburbs, the narrative travels back to 1902 to introduce Rebecca Mueller, 20 years old and newly married. Rebecca struggles against her temper, impulsive nature, and “smothering moments of panic” while negotiating the transition from doctor’s daughter to farmer’s wife in the Texas Hill Country. Adcock builds tension with the ghost’s periodic visitations, but the novel’s real concern lies in the more mundane but no less weighty issue of how fear and self-doubt can corrode marriages and families. Agent: Betsy Lerner, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner. (Sept.)