Cover Image: Unbury Carol

Unbury Carol

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Member Reviews

oh, bummer.

i loved bird box. thought it was terrifying. i do not normally enjoy scary books, i am scared far too easily. but i loved it.

this one sounded SO good. unfortunately it fell flat immediately for me. i almost DNF'd it but i was curious and kept hoping it would get better.  the writing felt so different, i didn't like the setting or the characters... it just was not for me. sorry. thanks anyway netgalley :)
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Unbury Carol by Josh Malerman is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in late April.

Carol Evers is a happy, attractive woman, who frequently falls into a catatonic state she calls Howltown. Her husband, Dwight, with his eye on her fortune, plans her permanent death while she's stuck in its stasis, but one man, her former paramour James Moxie, sends a telegram that exclaims the book's title. In all, their three stories (plus an occasional flashback to Carol's mom) are told very well, while also with the overhanging spectre of death and doom.
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This somewhat unusual story starts with the premise that the main character falls into a death-like coma at any time. Setting plausibility aside, it does turn into a game of suspense and character development/unfolding. A worthwhile and page-turning historical adventure for fans of suspense.
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This was my first time reading a Josh Malerman book, although I have had Birdbox on my TBR list for far too long.  I plan to pick that one up soon, now, to compare.  I would like to know ifwhat I read in Unbury Carol is his typical style.  

To be honest, I did not love this book.  I can appreciate the achievement, but I did not enjoy it. I really had to force myself to pick it up every day, like a chore I did not want to do.  Because of that, it took me far too long to read, considering its relative brevity compared to many other books I read.  I did not feel any attachment to the characters and the plot was very strange.  Before I started the book, I loved the idea of it, expecting a western/horror mashup.  I guess I got that, but still, I feel that something was lacking.
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Oh Dwight, Dwight, Dwight, you money grubbing A$$hole! I could not wait to see what happens to you!!

This was a story told from the days when they used to put a bell in the coffins just in case they were still alive and woke up later.

Carol Evers is normally a regular woman until she lapses into a coma that is indistinguishable from death during high stress. This phenomenon has happened to her several times in the past. Only two people, besides herself, know of this condition, her A$$hole husband, Dwight, who married her for her money and her ex-husband, James Moxie, who is currently living at the other end of the trail and is summoned to help save Carol.

I thought this was a very original concept and very cleverly written. The author did a great job setting up the scene in this book. A land of olden days with dirt streets, wooden sidewalks (maybe) and old time wood buildings. The scene was set on land consisting of several cities along a "trail". The length of which takes two days on horseback to make. There are coaches with horses, local saloons and the ever present whorehouses which make up the rest of this backdrop. One which really gave me a feel for the old time westerns I've seen in the past.

The feelings and thoughts of these characters were a hoot. Especially Dwight. What a simple mind he was with an ego the size of Texas. Smoke was another character that was definitely out there.

I found this to be sort of, okay, crazy hokey, but it worked. I thought it was very entertaining and sped right through it.

Thanks to Random House Ballantine and Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.
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First off, thanks to the publisher and author for an advanced reading copy of Unbury Carol in exchange for an honest review.

Hell’s Heaven this was an interesting read and I’ll pigshit you not, these two (2) phrases are used quite a bit throughout. Think of it not really as a horror novel, but more of a weird western with some ‘true grit’. A novel where the girl on the cover isn’t really the emphasis of the story, but it is the cast of characters surrounding her condition and their motivations that shine through the oil and smoke.

Carol Evers has an interesting condition. Think of her as sleeping beauty with the ability to wake up after a few days without the need of a kiss from a handsome prince.  While she is in this comatose state, the world around her continues on at its normal pace, and all she feels is the constant sensation of falling…falling…falling. Unlucky for her, only a couple of people know about her condition; one of them has just died and another is out of state and out of mind, mostly. Lucky for her husband, Dwight, Carol has just gone under and the only person in town that knows she is still alive is him. What awaits him is a promised land of riches. What awaits Carol is six feet of dirt and only hours of oxygen.

Malerman is the author of one of my favorite novels, Bird Box, which just so happened to be one of my Top Reads of 2017 and is being made into a film on Netflix. It releases on December 21st, 2018 and stars Sandra Bullock, Sarah Paulson, and John Malkovich, among others. To be honest, Bird Box put Malerman on my ‘must-read’ list for all future releases because it was just THAT GOOD, so I was happy to get a copy of Unbury Carol for review. Though it is vastly different, being in a western setting vs that of a post-apocalyptic, we do get another strong female character as our main protagonist and the writer does a fine job of instantly connecting her with the reader.

What really drives the interest in the novel is the character development of our villains and “prince charming”, if you will. Seeing all of the events unfold from these different vantage points adds so much dramatic tension and excitement to the novel, but also to the world in which Carol is rarely ever apart of throughout the story. Also, I really enjoyed the development of ‘The Trail’ which does give us a little bit of world-building along our journey. To be honest, my favorite part out of everything was the main villain, Smoke. His character arc has to be one of the finest I’ve seen in a while and his tunes will forever live in the back of my mind.

Overall, if you are a fan of Malerman, you’ll more than likely pick up a copy of Unbury Carol; but I urge those of you who like your fiction a little on the weird or western side of things to give it a shot. The author truly knows how to create interesting worlds and characters and I for one cannot wait to see what’s next.
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Holy crap this book is creepy. Could not put it down!!!!
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What can I say about Unbury Carol? This book was certainly a slog for me and if I hadn't been given a digital ARC through Netgalley I probably wouldn't have finished it. Overall this one just didn't grab me. I felt no motivation to pick it up even during times I would usually be reading. But it wasn't all bad. It did have some promising aspects that I wish had been explored in greater depth. I'll break it down like this (possible spoilers ahead!):

What I Liked:
--The world was unique. The Trail sounds like a fascinating place and was certainly spooky. I liked the idea of outlaws wandering a creepy supernatural forest and getting into trouble.
--Some characters were interesting. Mostly side and background people unfortunately--the other outlaws, the trail watchers, etc. I wanted to know more about those people and explore their lives in more detail.

What I Didn't Like
--So many plot holes and generally weak plotting. I'll buy the Carol falls into these deathlike comas, but why is it a secret? Why doesn't her husband just smother her? Seems easier than his guilt trip into madness worrying if she's going to wake up. Basically the whole book could have been avoided with a few simple decisions on our villain's part and the reasons for them not happening were pretty lame.
--Our bad guy was really lame in the end. For most of the book we follow both James Moxie and the outlaw Smoke who was hired to kill Moxie before he could rescue Carol. We spend SO MUCH TIME with him. Probable more than with Moxie honestly. And granted he was interesting! I wanted to know more about him (he was certainly more interesting than Moxie). But when it comes down to it, he did basically nothing. So why all the chapters about him?
--Our heroes are sketchy at best. After reading this book I could not tell you ONE thing about Carol that is not on the back of the book. She is a woman. She falls into deathlike comas. That's it. Supposedly everyone likes her, but they never explain why or what she does in town other than be rich. Same with Moxie--he's an outlaw who feels guilty about leaving Carol when they were young. He's possibly magical, but it's never clear. If I'm supposed to be rooting for these people I need to know why.
--Random demon thing? What was the point of that? And why does it even care about Carol? Again the explanation for Rot's motivation was sketchy at best. 
--The deus ex machina of an ending that basically rendered every page of this book pointless and unnecessary. Seriously, it's existence wasn't even a surprise to Carol so I have no idea what the point of this book even was. It just sucked any tension that may have existed in the narrative right out. 

In my opinion it's worth reading only if you're a huge fan of the author or feel compelled to read every weird western that's published. The world building is interesting and the only thing that saves this from being a 1 star.
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Anyone who knows me knows that Bird Box is my favorite book to date. Josh Malerman really pulled off the whole Twilight Zone feel of things. Unfortunately, this review isn’t about that book. Though I looked forward to reading this book and I was excited to get the opportunity to review an advance copy, it does not live up to what I expect from Malerman.

Everything in Unbury Carol is a cliché. From the stereotypical characters, to the very style, it is a letdown. I made it almost 40% into the book before I realized I knew the plot, the villains, and pretty much what was going to happen. Granted I could be wrong, and if I am, PLEASE correct me in the comments, but it’s a pretty straightforward “Prince Charming saves Damsel-in-Distress” scenario. Otherwise, I think it’d be a short story.

Before I begin my rant about plot though, I want to take a moment to focus on the main characters thus far. We have the old lover, Moxie. He’s your usual western outlaw. He’s regretful, he’s made some bad choices, he wants to fix them. Then you have the husband, our evil mastermind. He’s like the dragon in a “save the princess” scenario. And of course, we have Carol Evers, who basically just lays there, listening to the future laid out. It’s a Sleeping Beauty plot.

Now that I’ve mentioned that lovely device… This book absolutely crawls. We all know how short the tale of Sleeping Beauty is, whether it is Disney or Grimm. This book stretches that plot device over nearly 400 pages. The first half of it (okay, 2/5s if we’re being technical) is full of nothing and this bothers me. This is where I reiterate the fact I loved Bird Box. For every bit of Bird Box that kept you on the edge of your seat, Unbury Carol puts you to sleep.

I guess what I’m saying here is that the book doesn’t live up to my expectations. I hate, hate, hate putting down a novel that I’ve started reading, but Unbury Carol is one of those that I just cannot finish. I’d like to thank the Del Ray, NetGalley, and the author for providing me with an opportunity to review this book free of charge in exchange for honesty.
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Malerman is the author of one of the greatest must-read horror novels of the decade (Bird-Box), and now he's back with a a wild, wonderful, and daring novel. A mish-mash of genres that refuses to be pegged in any one. The western genre may try to claim this as its own. There is the western dialect, the characters, the setting, the mythical 'trail' where outlaws ride upon with fantastical tales. The horror genre will object, and claim Unbury Carol as its own. There's the Edgar Alan Poe-esque fear of being buried alive, the graphic horror of being burned alive, and the villain who is truly horrific (not to mention Malerman's body of work). One thing for sure is that Malerman has flexed his literally muscles, and plotted a wonderful tale. The notion of having a consciousness but being trapped in a powerless body in a hostile universe is perhaps the horror of our age. Look to "Get Out" and at least two episodes of Netflix's Black Mirror.

This is a story to be read aloud, by a campfire, after a day of riding and your body aching. The night's too dark for stars, the campfire has jumped its pit, and the flames have followed a trail straight to your oil-drenched body. Best to have your grave freshly dug nearby.
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Although this book was about a woman in a supernatural coma, it actually had quite a bit going on. I struggled with the slow pace at first, but I got more invested as the story went on and the plot lines for all the characters started converging and it really became a race against time. Would Carol wake up before her burial? Would her ex-lover James get there in time to stop the burial if she didn’t? Would Smoke, the triggerman hired to kill James, succeed before James got there? Would Dwight, Carol’s no-good, scheming husband who was using her condition to finally get rid of her, lose his mind or incriminate himself somehow? Would Sheriff Opal figure out what was going on?

The characters were interesting, and each one was unique. I liked Carol for how, even stuck in a coma-like state, she kept fighting, trying to move, trying to do something to save herself. Dwight was a scumbag who was trying to kill his wife, so obviously I didn’t like him, but I did wonder what he might do as he got more and more panicked and anxious. Then there was Smoke, who was so villainous he made Dwight’s murder scheme look like child’s play. Smoke was messed up and used his specially made lower leg prosthetics to spill oil around and burn people alive. Last but not least, there was James. I didn’t like that he left Carol all those years ago just because he couldn’t handle her condition, but he felt guilty about that and set out to help her when she needed it. And really, who doesn’t like a mysterious outlaw with a good heart? ;-) I even liked Sheriff Opal for how he didn’t immediately jump to conclusions but was rightfully suspicious and not an idiot about things either.

One thing I didn’t like though was the head-hopping/omniscience. I found myself getting confused sometimes when I thought I was in one character’s head only to suddenly be told another character’s thoughts in the next sentence. And there were a lot of characters whose thoughts/POVs we got even though they didn’t all seem necessary.

I’m also disappointed that a certain carrot was dangled in front of the readers throughout the entire book, but then we never got an answer. I guess that was the point, to keep the reader wondering, but I found it frustrating.

Something that could go either way for readers was the supernatural aspect. It was written in a way that made me unsure what was real and what was just happening in characters’ heads. But I think it was meant to be this way, I felt like it made more sense as the story continued, and it’s the kind of thing each reader will come to their own conclusion about.

Overall though, this was a unique paranormal western story with some mystery, some magic, some darkness, and some outlaws, and you just might be surprised at who the real hero turns out to be.
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I have been hyped up on the Malerman this year after having read Bird Box. When I heard what Unbury Carol was going to be about, I could not have been more excited about it.

The Strengths

The premise of Unbury Carol was unique and interesting. The main character Carol slips into comas that make her appear to be dead. Carol's husband decided to use the opportunity to pass her off as dead so he could bury her and steal her fortune.

The scenes I enjoyed most were told from Carol’s perspective. Unfortunately, these were not the focus of Unbury Carol, and I would have loved to have more from Carol.

Even when I knew Unbury Carol wasn’t working for me, it was able to hold my attention.

The Weaknesses

There wasn’t a lot of character development for any of the characters so I was frustrated with their actions and confused about their motivations. I had no reason to root for Carol. I still don’t know her even after having read the book.

The pacing was slow until the halfway point, but it did finally pick up and hold until the end.

The most interesting part of the ending (Carol’s fate) was told to the reader. I would have loved a lot more show throughout the book.

After the intense reading experience of Bird Box and the assumption that being buried alive would be a large focus of this one, I was disappointed that Unbury Carol wasn’t a suspenseful read. The western aspect took me by surprise.

I wish there had been a lot more world building both inside Carol’s coma world and outside in this western setting. I would have loved to know more about the coma world just because I was fascinated by it, but I needed more information about the outside world just to understand the setting.

Overall, Unbury Carol was a miss for me, but Josh Malerman is still on my must read list.

3/10: Didn't Work For Me
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3.5 stars!

Hell's Heaven! I haven't been this torn about a book in a long while. UNBURY CAROL was brave in exploring new territory, (weird western, I'd call it), while at the same time it wallowed in repetition. 

Carol has a rare condition which causes her to fall into a coma for days at the drop of a hat. To anyone unfamiliar with her disease, she appears to be dead. It's important for at least  someone  to know what's going on with her so that she doesn't get buried alive by mistake. However, Carol is reluctant to tell many people for fear of rejection, and in one case, the departure of her true love who just didn't want to deal with the responsibility. Will she ever find true love again? Will there ever be a cure for her malady? You'll have to read this book to find out. 

I'm going to attempt to be honest here, while also attempting not to spoil anything. I feel obligated to mention the repetition of certain words and phrases. They had me rolling my eyes repeatedly. "Hell's Heaven" (!), is a phrase that nearly everyone uses to no end. It's this world's version of OMG, or Holy S**t, I guess. One overused word was "outlaw." (I get it. These are outlaws. We're in the west, they're wanted and/or BAD men.) Lastly "pig-shitt**s." Low down and dirty are the pig shitt**s. I get it. EVERYONE gets it. I'm speculating that the author used these words and phrases with the aim of world-building, and perhaps they helped to accomplish first. After that, they just became so repetitious and irritating that it became kind of funny. (Or that could just be me, I'm told my sense of humor is off.)

Speaking of that world-building-I've read that the hardcover has a map of the Trail. (Everything that happens in this book happens along the Trail itself,  or in the villages and towns located on the Trail.) That map is something I would like to see and I'd also like to read more about the Trail in the future. The villains in this book were interesting and a lot of fun,  and they ALL had seemed to have some history that involved the Trail. In most cases, those people and the Trail's history were more interesting than the main characters-at least for me. 

So, again, I am torn. I loved the creativity and imagination that went into Carol's disease and the building of this western world, while I was bothered by the repetition and what felt like an anti-climactic finale. Where does that leave us? At a 3.5/5 star rating. As always, your mileage may vary and I wold love to hear your thoughts on UNBURY CAROL when you're done! 

*Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review. This is it.*
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A solid 3.5 star read. Had I been in the right mood, my feelings towards Unbury Carol might have been even more positive, but I had a hard time finding my footing when it came to this book, and I think its peculiar mix of genre elements might have been a contributing factor.

At the center of this story is a woman named Carol Evers, a woman with a very strange condition. Ever since she was a little girl, she has suffered from spells that send her collapsing into a coma-like state, except these comas are virtually indistinguishable from death and they can last for days. During her visits to Howltown—the name young Carol gave to these eerie episodes—she would be awake and aware inside her mind, despite her physical body lying inert. It is her deepest, darkest secret that only a few people other than Carol herself know the truth about, and after the deaths of her mother Hattie and her good friend John Bowie, only two remained. One was her husband, Dwight, an ambitious and conniving man who married Carol for her family’s fortune, and the second person was James Moxie, an old flame of Carol’s who went on to become one of the land’s most notorious outlaws.

However, since the last time Carol saw Moxie was more than twenty years ago, she begins to grow worried that should she lapse into another one of her death-like comas, only Dwight would know the truth of what was really happening to her. Her concerns came a bit too late though, as in fact her husband had been waiting patiently all these years for this exact moment. The next time Carol falls into Howltown, that’s when Dwight decides to strike, carrying out his plot to declare her dead and bury her as quickly as possible, even knowing full well she would be alive. Only through sheer luck does James Moxie manage to catch word of the impending funeral, and knowing what he does about Carol’s condition, it’s a race against time to save his lost love from a terrible fate.

I should have been all over this one: a paranormal Western featuring an outlaw Prince Charming who rides gallantly forth to rescue his Sleeping Beauty? But it actually took several false starts before I was drawn into the story, which opens with a focus on Carol but then over time gradually shifts to focus more on Moxie. The first quarter of the book was also bogged down by abstract descriptions of Howltown, convenient and not-too-convincing plot points, and hasty introductions to the characters that left me feeling neither here nor there about them. On top of this, there were the many flashbacks to contend with, and these would appear erratically throughout the narrative. With Josh Malerman at the helm, I also expected this to be a horror novel, but it’s really not. Instead, it feels more like a mix of dark fantasy combined with the supernatural set in a historical fiction context with a bit of a Western flavor, but because all of this is so haphazardly thrown together in the intro, I had a tough time pinning down the book’s tone and setting—at least in the beginning. 

Fortunately, things improve once we get into the meat of the story, especially with James Moxie’s chapters coming to the forefront. A lot of important information is also revealed in the later flashback sections, filling in gaps in the characters’ personalities and motivations. There’s also the added factor of Smoke, a shadowy assassin dispatched to stop Moxie before he can reach Carol, as well as the demon-like antagonist known as Rot, who haunts our protagonists and pulls the strings from behind the scenes. Just as Moxie’s chapters held more action and agency than Carol’s, making him a lot more interesting to read about, Smoke and Rot were also more effective villains than Dwight, increasing the plot’s intensity once they entered the picture and the race against the clock got under way.

In the end, it’s Moxie’s adventures on “The Trail” that saved this book for me. Between the cat-and-mouse chase between him and Smoke and the fascinating personalities he meets while on his journey, Unbury Carol finally became something more than just a story about saving a damsel in distress. A part of me still wishes that Malerman had given the book’s titular character a little more power to influence the plot, but nonetheless I became invested in the story once I accepted the new direction. 

In truth, Unbury Carol is a lot more than a Weird Western meets a twisted fairytale retelling, but I guess I’ll just go with that for lack of a better description. The story took its time getting off the ground, but personally speaking, sticking with it was an investment that paid off in the end. It certainly hasn’t put me off from reading more of Josh Malerman’s work, and I look forward to checking out more of his books in the future.
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Unbury Carol can be described as a dark western with a horror/supernatural twist. This story is told from multiple points of view across a couple of days. It revolves around Carol, a woman who suffers from a condition where she randomly falls into a coma that can last multiple days. Her deceitful husband, Dwight, uses this latest episode as an opportunity to get rid of her by burying her alive. While Carol is in a coma, she enters a frightening world while trapped in her body. James Moxie, Carol's ex-lover turned outlaw, gets word of Dwight's evil plot and rides to the rescue. There are forces, both human and supernatural, preventing James from making this a smooth journey. The author was very good at capturing the dark sides of mankind. Smoke was the most creative take on a bad guy I have come across in some time. I really liked how the author was able to tell the story from multiple characters' points of view while bringing everything together. The world building was very creative and visionary. The author also tried to bring in dark humor and a love story that was outside the norm, which I think just made the story a bit more entertaining. I would definitely be interested in reading more from this author.
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Josh Malerman is quickly becoming an author to look out for.  While I've only read Bird Box previously, I loved it.  Malerman's tone in that novel really resonated with me.  So when I got the opportunity to review Unbury Carol, I was cautiously excited.  As soon as I started reading, all caution was abandoned.

Unbury Carol is a sort of twisted retelling of the Sleeping Beauty legend.  Carol Evers suffers from an unknown ailment which causes her to inexplicably slip into a death-like coma.  The only two people who know of her situation are her husband and her ex-lover, an outlaw named James Moxie, several towns away.  This time, as the coma grips her, her husband decides to take advantage of this lack of knowledge.  And only her outlaw lover has the potential to save her from a fate worse than, real, actual death!

The novel has a sepia-hued western tone, being something of a period piece, inspired by dark fairytale-esque themes.  I felt a sort of Stephen King vibe to this, having some thematic similarities to the likes of Misery or Gerald's Game.  It's a solid demonstration of Malerman's ability to write successfully in different styles.  There's a fun dichotomy playing throughout the novel. Carol's plight is more intimate and explores the town and its residents.  Whereas James Moxie's parallel story fleshes out the treacherous world outside, along The Trail.  The details of how the underworld of outlaws functions and the twisted ways in which some of them work is just as entertaining and interesting. There's great balance in this novel.  Malerman chooses his words wisely and is able to reveal just enough about a great many things without adding unnecessary page length. He has a gift for being descriptive without being wordy, which is a trait I greatly appreciate. The way he describes Carol's experience while in her coma is chilling and effective: hard to imagine yet clearly defined.  

Unbury Carol is a fun, creepy adventure through a well realized, unique experience. Not quite horror, not quite a fairytale, with tints of a fable and the dust of a western, I'm looking forward to reading what comes next from the mind of Malerman.
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This is one of those hard to place books. It is a western (horses, guns, etc). It is a fantasy (women who goes into a coma like death frequently, magical gunfighter, etc). There are four main characters:
Carol: who drops off into a coma like sleep that mimics death for days at a time.
Dwight: her evil husband who wants to bury her before she wakes up. He slowly unravels, Tale Tell Heart style, as the book progresses.
James Moxie: a gunfighter who once was in a relationship with Carol but left because her condition scare him. Now he is riding to save her from being buried alive.
Smoke: a really weird man who has been hired to stop James from reaching Carol. His favorite method of killing someone is by fire.
The story followed these main characters as they progress towards the moment of Carol's burial. And while they are interesting, the book did drag a bit. I wish Mr. Malerman had shortened that part of the book, because I got the point, and spent it on a preface. Maybe use those pages to start the story earlier so the reader sees the normal cycle of an episode. But overall it was a very engaging read.
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while I appreciate Malermans writing, this story just didn’t do it for me and to be honest it’s my own fault. I went into this expecting a thriller along the same veins of Bird Box, and while there is some strange and eerie elements, this one is a much slower paced story. I put myself at a disadvantage expecting one thing, The story is more complex and has multiple points of view. I did find it interesting Carols “death” illness. I also didn’t really connect with Carol or any of the other characters very well. While I was supposed to feel something for Carol in her dire situation, I just didn’t. This one just went for me but I know it will be up some people’s alley, Think more western with eerie elements going into this.
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