That Pale Host
"One need not be a chamber to be haunted..."
Charlotte brings her baby girl home from the hospital to the usual sleep deprivation and worries of a new mom, but something else has changed. Nightmares and moving shadows fill her with dread, and something or someone seems to be watching her.
As her daughter grows, so does Charlotte's fear. Whoever is watching has a message and will do anything to make her understand.
Even tear her family, her faith, and her self apart.
If I had to choose three words to describe this story, I would say personal, raw, and important.
Personal because the authors note clearly looks into the fact that this story, while fictitious, has roots inside of the authors life. I think there is nothing more beautiful than an author writing something they know. The pain written in this story, as well as the fear and confusion, was all so tangible. I could not tear myself away from this story.
Raw because McCary knows how to pen emotions. I laughed with the characters, cried with the characters, and internally cursed out other characters with Charlotte. You do not understand how much this book holds until you read it. The range of events and emotions was startling. I need more from McCary. She has such a gift. It's insane.
Important because this touches on topics that many would consider taboo for a 'Christian' book. We see abuse, both in a marriage and in a position of authority. We see people forcing convictions on others. We see a church divided by issues. We see a couple miscommunicating and almost living in hatred with each other. There are discussions in here about God, authority, the parents role in the life of a child, and the way a child should respond to certain things from authorities. I could not get over some of the events in here because they were so realistic and believable, opening up a door into experiences that I hope I never have to deal with.
A domestic supernatural thriller that harkens back to The Yellow Wallpaper and I suspect (though I can’t say for sure because I haven’t read it yet) Shirley Jackson’s Bird’s Nest, as well. This book was not completely what I was expecting, but in the end I was totally okay with that! A young mom is plagued with progressively terrifying visions that give her debilitating anxiety through the years, and she tries to find out what they mean. While it wasn’t as creepy as I was hoping, I still felt myself glued to the story and the characters, the ins and outs of their domestic lives. All the while, there is this ominous undertone and question of Charlotte’s ghost. And the ending does not disappoint!!! By the last page I was in tears (which almost never happens to me!). The book touches on issues of mental health and domestic abuse and even looks at how Christians can sometimes do a disservice to people in pain. Also, props for highlighting postpartum mental health issues, which are sadly STILL overlooked today. I devoured this book in a few days and would definitely recommend!
SELECT FEATURED REVIEWS
Hauntingly thoughtful, That Pale Host is more than a psychological thriller. McCary's moving debut grapples with mental health, abuse, and the overcoming power of love and faith.
Cathy McCrumb, author of Recorder
Release date: October 5, 2021
Page count: 352
Genre: Psychological thriller
Tropes: Post-partum depression, gossip, ghosts, insanity, slow burn