Sunday, January 27, 2019


Nightingale by Amy Lukavics (2018)

It's the early 50s and June Hardie is not living up to her mother's idea of what a young woman should be. June is not interested in learning how to be a good wife, but prefers to work on her story about a woman who is abducted by aliens. She ends up in a mental hospital and the story goes back and forth between "the institution" and "days past" as we learn the full story of why she is there and what happens to her in the hospital.

As part of a business deal, her father wanted her to date a particular young man to better forge a relationship with his father. June wasn't crazy about Robert, but felt she had no choice but to go along with the scheme. Meanwhile, her mother was giving her lessons in cooking, shopping, and other domestic arts to better prepare her to be a housewife. Little did she know that June was secretly applying to a writing program to attend after her upcoming graduation.

Fast forward to the mental institution. June is convinced her parents have been replaced by beings who are not her parents. In the hospital she meets other young women with strange experiences, like her roommate Eleanor who is convinced that she died three years ago. Something at the hospital doesn't seem right to June. The girls are sometimes locked into their rooms for long periods, she's given drugs before even seeing the doctor, and when she does see the doctor he doesn't talk to her - the nurse Joya stands next to him and does all the talking. The threat of lobotomy hangs over everyone.

June was a smart, ambitious young woman who just wanted to be free from the narrow role her parents wanted her to play. She could picture herself at the writing retreat, living the kind of life that she wanted; it was so close but, alas, it was not to be. She was stifled at home and stifled in the hospital. She was convinced that her parents were not her parents, but wanted to cooperate with the hospital in order to secure her freedom at the same time that she suspected something sinister was going on. She didn't know if going along with what the hospital staff wanted would actually help or hurt her. It was ominous and realistic enough to be the sort of horror that feels all too possible.

The ending was very strange. A number of things happened late in the book, some of which were pretty bizarre and I still don't quite understand, some of which I liked and found satisfying. I can't actually criticize it because I think it's just my preference, and actually maybe made sense with the rest of the story. It really was a pretty good horror story!

I've read two other books by Amy Lukavics. Daughters Unto Devils remains a favorite, and although I didn't love The Women in the Walls as much, I still really enjoyed it. She's got one more novel that I haven't read, The Ravenous, which is second only to Daughters Unto Devils as far as the Goodreads average rating. I'm putting that one on my list to read as well!

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