Cover Image: The Cherry Robbers

The Cherry Robbers

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Absolutely excellent! I can’t wait to read Walker’s debut after adoring this one. Great for Shirley Jackson fans like me.
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This is a  good gothic ghost story, with a lot of foreboding and eerie atmospheres. The book is a real page turner, but it is not super scary. Walker's writing captures the story of a family home ensnared in tragedy very well. 

Although this is noted to be a creepy novel, and there is the sense of that in the book, I found it to be more a book about sisterhood, and feminism and what was expected of young women and the way society viewed what their roles should be.
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didn't expect to like this as much since it look a second to get into the plot but once the ball was rolling, i was hooked. the plot was so unique and i loved how sarai walker structured the uncovering of each detail (it felt like she was spreading out a bit rather than just dumping it)

it grapples with so many relevant themes that interest me (motherhood, feminism, relationships, grief, etc.) in an accessible and natural way. the prose was well written and it really able to shine once in the latter part of the book with the descriptions of art.

my one gripe was that there were some lags in the story that meandered too long between impactful plot points, in my opinion. especially in in the last section of the book. the pacing slowed way down and the weight of the events beforehand kind of fizzled out (if that makes sense).

other than that really enjoyed the story and thank you for the arc !
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I found this book fascinating, intriguing and a bit strange. It was written beautifully and in an unexpected way. Iris's story is very compelling,  heartbreaking, and honest. If you love stories that area but mysterious you'll love this book.
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I'm a huge fan of the gothic genre, and the sort of revival that we've been seeing of the gothic within the contemporary scene has been very enjoyable for me. The Cherry Robbers is no exception. It's a beautifully constructed novel about femininity, sexuality, and grief. The Cherry Robbers follows the Chapel daughters, who are heiresses to the Chapel firearms fortune. But their story doesn't begin with them, it has always existed. We open with Sylvia Wren, a renowned, yet elusive artist living in New Mexico. We learn that she is, in fact, Iris Chapel, the fifth (of six) daughter of the Chapel family. 

The majority of the novel is set as a flashback to when the six girls were growing up, and the fates that befell them. We learn that their father is very detached, and their mother, Belinda, never really wanted the life that she has. She's believed to be insane because she thinks that their house is haunted by the ghosts of people killed by the firearms produced by Chapel. 

While there's not a lot of horror involved, the eerie atmosphere that Walker sets and maintains is extremely captivating. It took me a while to be fully engrossed because I wasn't sure of the direction the story would take at the beginning, but it's well wrapped-up with a very satisfying arc throughout. 

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I really enjoyed this and it’s easily my favorite read this month. It’s described as a “feminist gothic ghost story.” The story was very different than anything I’ve read. It reminded me a little of We Have Always Lived in the Castle. It was very well written and full of symbolism and foreshadowing.
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I received an advanced reader's copy in exchange for an honest review

This book starts out a bit light and unfolds slowly into some deep water.  The characters grown on you and you find yourself really feeling what they feel through the ups and downs.  A feminist meditation on love and family and what they can do to women, not too sweet, not too sour.
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I can not recommend this book enough! I read My Heart Is a Chainsaw in one day.  This thriller/suspense book is one of best books of 2021..  I appreciate net gallery and selected publishers for this early copy
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Wow. Just wow. I absolutely LOVED this novel! I'm a huge fan of Sarai Walker's writing. Her debut, "Dietland" was my favorite novel of 2015, and I've been eagerly awaiting her sophomore effort ever since. She did not disappoint. I love how the concept of feminism is weaved throughout this novel, just like "Dietland" - but it's completely different in plot and structure. "The Cherry Robbers" is an original, quirky, heartbreaking, and captivating novel from start to finish. I loved Sylvia/Iris as the protagonist. She was the perfect person to tell the tragic deaths of her 5 sisters. Part gothic ghost story, part feminist love letter. I loved the symbolism. The Chapel sisters stole/devoured/broke my heart. I loved everything about it. I was never bored, and I'm a VERY picky reader. All the stars! I hope this book becomes a bestseller when it is released next year. AN ABSOLUTE MASTERPIECE. 

Thank you, Netgalley and Mariner Books for the digital ARC.
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Thank you for allowing me to enjoy this gothic and thoroughly enjoyable read. i loved Sarai Walker’s first book and was very excited to get to read this new one. I've never read anything similar to this and love how unique and different it is. In the best possible way. This author will definitely be an auto buy in future for me!
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blurbed as a ‘gothic ghost story with a fiery feminist zeal,’ this book takes that description and runs with it, while adding some serious sarah winchester* vibes into the mix. this isn’t a horror novel, but it’s tense and dark in a way that draws you in slowly and then goes right for your throat.

*sarah winchester was the lady from the late 1800s/early 1900s who built that whacky mansion out in california because she was certain that the ghosts of everyone who’d been killed by a winchester rifle were out to get her.
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Overall I really enjoyed this book, it took me a while to get into it but once I was in I was completely hooked. I really enjoyed the style of writing.
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The Cherry Robbers follows Sylvia Wren, an elusive artist residing in New Mexico, who recounts her mesmerising and mysterious days as the young Iris Chapel following a series of letters sent by a nosy, investigative journalist. 

Foreshadowing is this book's friend, and I found it satisfying (and mortified) that such clues lead the story down dark paths.  ​

Thanks to Netgalley and HMH/Mariner Books for providing me the e-arc.
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3 stars It started really good, but the story just didn’t hold my attention. There was no relationship between iris and her sisters or parents. And no relationship between Sylvia and Lola, I felt Lola was more a business partner than her actual partner. I just felt it was lacking in the relationship department throughout the book.  It was a DNF for me.
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Thank you to Net Galley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for a digital arc in exchange for my honest review.

This is a story of a family of daughters and a curse. The story begins with Sylvia Wren, a world-renowned artist living in New Mexico. Sylvia receives a letter one day from a journalist who has been investigating her life, and discovers that Sylvia might not be who she said she is. Sylvia has been living secretly under her name for over 60 years but growing up she was known as Iris Chapel, of the famed Chapel Rifle family. (Think of them like the Winchester family).

The book then flashes back to Iris and her sisters growing up. Iris the second youngest daughter of 6 girls: Aster, Rosalind, Calla, Daphne, Iris and Hazel (Zelie), all named after flowers. They grow up in CT in a massive house they call the wedding cake and are generally left to their own devices. Their mother Belinda is very disengaged as never wanted to be a mother or wife, and their father is always working. Additionally, Belinda believes very strongly in ghosts and that the ghosts of people who died at the hands of the Chapel rifle haunt their house. The girls are generally seen as oddballs in town as they keep to themselves in their big house. The girls often speak about leaving the house one day and escaping and Aster and Rosalind as the eldest daughters are closest to this reality.

On a family trip to Cape Cod one summer, Aster meets Matthew Maybrick, with whom she falls in love, begins a courtship, and ultimately decides to marry. Thus begins the downfall of the Chapel sisters. As Aster gets closer to her wedding date, Belinda begins to smell roses and gets very ill, a sign of a bad omen (her mother’s name was Rose and died in childbirth). She is convinced that if Aster marries Matthew, something terrible will befall her. The book follows the story of these six sisters and their ultimate fates. It's a unique book, historical fiction mixed with gothic horror, and I was very engaged in the stories of these women until the very end.
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With marriage seeming to spell doom for the women of the Chapel family, there may be one lone survivor of it all but there will be a cost in Sarai Walker’s The Cherry Robbers.

The Chapel family produced six daughters, all heiresses to the firearm fortune, who lived in a Victorian home nicknamed the wedding cake. With a distant father focused on business matters and no apparent emotional connections and an aloof mother sensitive to the emotions and world around her, the girls primarily looked after themselves and most of them viewed marriage as a way out of their strange lives. Iris, the second youngest of the daughters was the only one to take their mother’s warning of impending doom seriously when the eldest daughter, Aster, was about to get married; after Aster’s mysterious death, Iris’s outlook on marriage and men was forever marred, and solidified further when death was tragically taking the sisters out one by one. Eventually, Iris escaped from this cursed life and became a well-known, reclusive artist, under the name of Sylvia Wren, but her tragic past as Iris comes back to haunt her when a journalist reaches out, hell-bent on chasing the story, and mystery, of Iris Chapel and her sisters.

With a well-crafted and eerie atmosphere drawing readers in and female characters who are fully realized, this novel captures your attention with relative ease and creates a palpable tension to maintain your interest in learning about the more intricate details of the tragic fate befalling the Chapel girls. The gothic ghost story aspect of the novel was present, and there were true moments of horror (particularly for contemporary readers) and questions raised regarding what was real, but didn’t feel like the focus as it paled in comparison with the extensive exploration of femininity, sexuality, feminism, and grief, which all played a major role in crafting Iris’s identity. Though I wasn’t sold on how the story was being framed when presented at the start, by the end when it was wrapping (most) everything up the narrative’s framing wound up being satisfying enough and demonstrated that knowing what’s to come and knowing the details that went in to creating that outcome are rather different things; the Chapel story and the Wren story, though interconnected could easily be separated and developed with both remaining nearly equally interesting.

Overall, I’d give it a 4 out of 5 stars.

*I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Sarai Walker already wrote Dietland (a book I’m now eager to read), but she somehow escaped my radar until June, when I requested The Cherry Robbers on Netgalley. Goodreads listed it as gothic horror, which is something I can’t resist: someone drops gothic horror in my close proximity = I jump. Or, I request it. Knee-jerk reaction at its best.

At any rate, I’m so glad I’m wired this way, because The Cherry Robbers is wow. Delightful.


The highly anticipated second novel from Sarai Walker, following her “slyly subversive” (EW) cult-hit Dietland—a feminist gothic about the lone survivor of a cursed family of sisters, whose time may finally be up.

New Mexico, 2017: Sylvia Wren is one of the most important American artists of the past century. Known as a recluse, she avoids all public appearances. There’s a reason: she’s living under an assumed identity, having outrun a tragic past. But when a hungry journalist starts chasing her story, she’s confronted with whom she once was: Iris Chapel.

Connecticut, 1950: Iris Chapel is the second youngest of six sisters, all heiresses to a firearms fortune. They’ve grown up cloistered in a palatial Victorian house, mostly neglected by their distant father and troubled mother, who believes that their house is haunted by the victims of Chapel weapons. The girls long to escape, and for most of them, the only way out is marriage. But not long after the first Chapel sister walks down the aisle, she dies of mysterious causes, a tragedy that repeats with the second, leaving the rest to navigate the wreckage, to heart-wrenching consequences.

Ultimately, Iris flees the devastation of her family, and so begins the story of Sylvia Wren. But can she outrun the family curse forever?

400 pages
Historical, gothic
Mariner Books


Cover: Pretty but scary? Pretty and scary? Ominous with ribbons? I don’t know but I like it.


- The Cherry Robbers is the story of Sylvia Wren, a world-famous artist. Or maybe it’s the story of Iris Chapel, the fifth of the six Chapel sisters, heiresses and all doomed from birth. The two tales, set on different timelines, entwine in the diaries Sylvia decides to write, unhearting secrets that have been kept under wraps for decades. 

- My favorite character is Sylvia, because while the transformation she undergoes is tragic and life-altering, she emerges as a better person. I’m not sure how she manages to do so, where she’s drawing her strength from (Lola would be the obvious answer, but not quite right); the thing is, she’s an inspiration. It’s not easy to achieve that with a fictional character.

- The story is engaging to the max, and Walker’s style is direct, clean. Forget useless descriptions, forget digressions: everything is relevant to the plot. I’ve got half a mind to start a Walker fanclub, because this, this, is how you write a good novel. Also, I just love the concept behind it.
Walker’s prose is sublime, as I was saying. The Cherry Robbers is written in first person, a style that’s hard to master for many authors; as a general rule, I prefer to steer clear of it for the most part, because I don’t have the patience to dive through endless strings of I&action. Here? None of that happens. Impeccable writing, spotless flow.

- The ending is so good. Detailed yet spoiler-free reviews are a point of pride for me, so I’m not going to divulge any detail. Find out what happens, dear fellow readers, because you won’t be disappointed. Maybe a little bit sad, maybe surprised, but not disappointed.


- Uh. Nothing. This picky reader is 100% satisfied.

5 stars on GR, and my opening line bears repeating: wow.
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This book is being pushed as a feminist ghost story, which meant I snagged it immediately. 

But make no mistake: this story is dark. The Cherry Walkers lays out the fates of the Chapel Sisters pretty clearly early on, and then we bleakly accompany them into the ground.

“The Chapel Sisters:

First they get married,

Then they get buried.”

The premise is undeniably enticing and promising. I couldn’t help but hope for deeper twists and thriller aspects, but The Cherry Walkers stays true to its eerie, and at (most) times depressing, set-up.

At times, the writing is poetic and beautiful, leading us through lesbian awakenings and gothic settings, but I found it was inconsistent. 

“What’s a life without love?”

I appreciate the appeal to a feminism-laced gothic story. Really, I do. But I came up with the title of this post about a quarter of the way through and couldn’t stop cracking myself up with how well it fit. It’s my toxic trait to overanalyze deeper meanings, and even through the explorations of gender norms and female sexuality “become a lesbian or perish” was screaming through the plot. 

Despite my beef with the writing, I burned through this one rather quickly so I will say - I can see this being widely loved by gothic fiction seekers. This felt a little bit like a mix between Mexican Gothic and The Virgin Suicides, so if that sounds like it’s up your alley then add The Cherry Robbers to your TBR.

Thank you to the publisher and author for an ARC!
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Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC of this novel. 
Spoilers ahead...
I found this one to be bleak without any lightness to balance the depressing tone. 
The past life of Iris/Sylvia is a life of few pleasures and much fear. Though she seems to love her sisters, I never felt the connection between them. The excessive foreshadowing of their deaths caused me to become impatient for them to die just so the story could move forward. The feminist and LGBTQ theme is slowly revealed and most (maybe all?) of the undeveloped male characters are portrayed as selfish, clueless, and cruel. 
Contrary to other reviewers, I found Sylvia's story to be more interesting and wish it had been explored more thoroughly. Instead, it's literally a 'dead end'. Sigh.
One interesting aspect of the story was the author's note about various catalysts for the story - especially the art of Georgia O'Keefe.
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I am really grateful to the publishers at Mariner for allowing me access to an advance copy of the book in exchange for this review. 

This novel by Sarai Walker was beautifully written and I loved the narrative voice. The descriptions and scene setting was so vivid that I could almost picture myself surrounded by the beautiful colours of New Mexico. I found this book difficult to put down and the mystery of the tragic Chapel sisters really drew me in.

The twin settings of modern day New Mexico and 1950’s Connecticut both felt so realised within the space of the book and I loved the dive into the twists and turns before we were ultimately connected and back in the present.

I would not hesitate to recommend this book as I absolutely loved it.
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