cover image Dearest


Jacquie Walters. Mulholland, $29 (304p) ISBN 978-0-316-58029-8

Flora, the 32-year-old protagonist of screenwriter Walters’s eerie if unsubtle debut, is sliding into postpartum psychosis six weeks after her daughter Iris’s birth. Her military husband is deployed overseas and her father and stepmother have come and gone, leaving Flora alone, disgusted by her body, and aghast at her infant’s demands. In despair, she reaches out to the mother she cut off four years earlier. Jodi is a critical, distant Mommie Dearest figure but ultimately responds to her child’s cry for help—or so it seems at first. Walters writes effectively spooky descriptions and executes the plot twists competently. The thrills, however, are more developed than the emotional stakes, which prove difficult to buy into as Walters uncritically reinscribes the misogyny that her mother/night hag tropes rely upon—down to Flora’s declaration, after 200-odd pages of her own dissociative terror and violent rages, that “I would have been happier with a mom who loved me fearlessly.” She may be an unreliable narrator, but she certainly can say the quiet part out loud. Fans of true psychological horror will find this a little too on the nose. Agent: Richard Abate, 3 Arts Entertainment. (Sept.)