BAD WITCH BURNING by Jessica Lewis
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I received an Advance Reader Copy of this book in order to write this review.
Katrell has been communicated with the dead (for paying clients) for years. It’s the only way she can pay for rent and utilities and food with her mother unemployed and her mom’s deadbeat boyfriend living at their place. But the money Katrell brings home never seems to be enough for her mom or her boyfriend, who can’t seem to help himself from beating on Katrell whenever he’s in a bad mood. When the boyfriend threatens Katrell with a gun–and ends up murdering Katrell’s beloved dog–she doesn’t know how she’ll survive her miserable life without her best friend.
Until she brings him back.
Katrell didn’t know she had the power to raise the dead, at least not until she accidentally raised her dog. But she immediately realizes the money-making potential. Who wouldn’t pay a fortune to have a loved one back, even if there’s something a little off about the revenants? And Katrell won’t have to worry about the rent (or her mom’s boyfriend) ever again. But raising the dead has costs Katrell didn’t anticipate, and as the revenants begin to slip out of her control, Katrell remembers a ghostly forewarning: is she really about to burn herself–and everything else–down?
The most brilliant (and most disturbing) aspect of this quasi-horror novel is the fact that the darkness doesn’t come from the revenants. It comes from the humans. With all of the fantasy elements removed, this story would still be a torturous story of the physical and emotional abuse of a child and the strength she finds to endure and ultimately accept help. It is truly a battle for Katrell to cling to her own self-worth and recognize the found-family of supportive adults and friends that has grown up around her. And it is her righteous anger at the way her mother and her mother’s boyfriend treat her that manifests as the ghosts and revenants and Katrell’s own need to burn things down. Despite its often disturbing content, the book has a cathartic feel that I believe the author intended. Although I would advise readers to consider their own life experiences and whether this content is likely to be triggering or unduly disturbing before picking it up, I think some readers with difficult or even cruel family backgrounds will find solidarity and hope in Katrell’s experiences.