Cover Image: Mary


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Member Reviews

This was a unique story. I was not expecting to enjoy it as much as I did. Thank you to the author and publisher for my copy in exchange for a review.
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I started reading this book while being a caregiver to my Mom. I could somewhat relate to Mary given my age and other circumstances. I was all on board for most of the book. I don't want to spoil anything, but once you learn about the history of the town, things get a little sideways. That's ok, because I like bizzaro horror as well, just unexpected. This book referenced "The Awakening" quite a bit, so with the main theme of the book, I would like to read it too. I really enjoyed the writing and the internal dialog.
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I have been chasing the high from reading this particular book for half a year now and still haven't encountered anything that kept me as enraptured. We need more older protagonists in horror!! And this one had everything: cults, family trauma, small towns, prophecies, serial killers, archives... Brilliant!
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Idiosyncratic belief systems, calculated yet volatile characters, and unsolved crimes all carry an unsettling mystique and speak to a horror of uncertainty that calls out to many of us. Readers will find this and more in Nat Cassidy's debut horror novel, MARY: AN AWAKENING OF TERROR, described as a blending of MIDSOMMAR, AMERICAN PSYCHO, and I'LL BE GONE IN THE DARK. MARY offers a tale that contains the terrifying themes of these three stories while adding other topics filled with uncertainty such as aging and the afterlife. What makes MARY an entertaining read is the unexpected way Cassidy combines a handful of themes that prove to work on their own. But what makes MARY stand out as an interesting new horror novel is how it centers the often neglected voices of middle-aged women, presents a social commentary on the violent voice of the patriarchy, and gives readers a thrilling and satisfying revenge story as the icing on the cake.

MARY: AN AWAKENING OF TERROR follows a 49-year-old woman named—you guessed it—Mary who, in her middle age, feels constantly overlooked. She lives alone in New York City, works at a bookstore where her manager frequently forgets she's an employee, and continues to internalize her childhood trauma without support. On top of this and the onset of menopause, Mary hears an aggressive voice urging her to commit violence and can't look in a mirror without passing out from the putrid images she finds staring back. 

When her verbally abusive aunt reaches out asking for help after years of estrangement, Mary decides to return to her hometown, located in the middle of the desert, with the hope of reclaiming her past, her identity, and her power. Soon after her arrival, Mary begins seeing disturbing, mutilated ghosts and auto-writing bizarre phrases. As she learns more, Mary discovers a connection between these weird experiences and a vicious, local serial killer. When new murders arise in town, Mary decides to take action and investigate the strange secrets occupying this small desert community. What she finds leads her to a startling revelation and the perfect opportunity to take back control over her life. 

Mary, the protagonist, is a character readers can easily champion. From the beginning, Cassidy sets the foundation for us to empathize with Mary. For example, when Mary informs her doctor of her strange experiences of fainting at the sight of her own reflection, he dismisses her concerns as "perimenopause." End of story. We want Mary's doctor to listen and take her concerns seriously, and it's infuriating when he responds only with condescension. This unfortunately common experience garners a shared sense of frustration and also expresses a piece of the social message Cassidy pins throughout the novel: that oppressive patriarchal voices diminish and all-too-often usurp the voices of women.

Following this feminist thread, the epigraphs to each chapter of MARY reveal other prominent themes, perhaps even more than the comparison to MIDSOMMAR, AMERICAN PSYCHO, and I'LL BE GONE IN THE DARK. Many chapters begin with quotes from Kate Chopin's 1899 novel THE AWAKENING, which tells the story of a woman struggling to reconcile the traditional views of femininity in the American South with her increasingly unconventional (for the time) opinions. The protagonist, Edna, feels trapped in her marriage, her motherhood, and the social constraints placed upon her. As these feelings grow, Edna seeks freedom and independence through means condemned by turn-of-the-century Louisiana society. MARY: AN AWAKENING OF TERROR certainly shares themes with this early feminist work and the inspiration definitely shows. As a single, middle-aged woman, Mary is defined by a misogynistic society as invisible and useless. Like Edna, the labels placed on women confine Mary to a life she desperately wants and fights to escape. 

In his afterward titled "What's This Asshole Doing Writing a Book about Menopause," Nat Cassidy acknowledges the gray areas of writing this novel from the privileged position of a cisgendered man. Raising the question of can—or should—he tell this story, Cassidy admits he doesn't really know, but that it's a very valid and complex question that deserves attention even if it's not his place to provide an answer. He shares that Mary's story first came to him as a teenager after reading Stephen King's CARRIE, which he addresses in more detail in the introduction of the book. Whether or not Cassidy should or should not be the one telling this story, it's clear he spent time considering this question, researching women's health and experiences, and consulting his editors to ensure he represented Mary sensitively and to the best of his abilities.

Overall, MARY: AN AWAKENING OF TERROR throws a varitey of themes on its pages and manages to stick the landing. If you enjoy true crime, the paranormal, cults, weird theology and religious practices, dynamic characters, a desert setting, revenge narratives, feminist commentary, Greek mythology, slashers, detective stories, or anything horror related, I can guarantee you'll find something to appreciate in this book.
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It pains me to leave this as a DNF, but I had a difficult time wanting to pick this book up again after setting it down. 

I loved Cassidy's dedication to his mom at the beginning of the book, and as a perimenopausal middle-aged lady, I could relate to Mary's rage more than I probably should. 

I'm going to try this book again at a later date on audio to see if it works better for me that way because I do want to know what happens. Loads of people have really enjoyed this book, so I would recommend trying it and seeing if it clicks for you or not.
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I liked this book. The psychological aspect was interesting and it was cool to “see” into Mary’s mind and her thought process. I don’t want to spoil anything but this book is a roller coaster of twists and turns. It has some mystery elements to it and it was fun to try and figure out what is going to happen next. The authors writing is excellent and keeps you hooked. I love good character description and development. 

The supernatural parts of the book were interesting and different. It’s almost like a mystery/ghost story/psychological thriller with blood.
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This book is great! Would definitely recommend. Thanks so much to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.
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Unfortunately, I have been locked out of my netgalley account for a few months and was not able to see which books I had on my list or even know to check if they downloaded properly, in order to properly read and review.  I do apologize and am doing a 3 for neutral.  Will update once I’m able to obtain a copy and read!
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Had I written this review immediately upon finishing the book, I would have given it 4 stars. It's been a week, and I can't stop thinking about it. This is a successfully unsettling, yet sensitive exploration into what it means to be a middle-aged woman in a society that has decided you are past your usefulness and how we internalize that perception, in Mary's case quite literally.
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If you're like me, you love reading spooky novels around Halloween. Mary: An Awakening of Terror is one of my first spooky reads of the season, and it did an excellent job of sending chills down my spine!

Mary is one of those people that blends perfectly in with a crowd. She would never be identified in a line-up, as nothing about her stands out. Or rather, nothing about her that stood out. But something is changing inside. It's only time before those changes are reflected on the outside.

Mary has been dealing with all sorts of issues, from hot flashes to terrifying visions. Worse, these visions are getting more vivid with time. And they're starting to line up with real-life murders.

Ohhh! I love this time of the year! Halloween always encourages authors to come out with new and spookier reads, and Mary is no exception! I knew this book would be a paranormal read, but it's so much more!

Picture how a novel would feel if it blended body horror with paranormal events. Now you have an idea of how Mary felt. It had dark and twisted vibes, while the lead character is stuck trying to understand what is happening to her body.

It's a lot, and that certainly adds to the horror. In truth, Mary is a slow-burn horror novel, which is the best type. It takes a while for things to get rolling, but by then, it's far too late to back out.

I had never thought to seek out a horror novel that blends menopause with more horrifying tropes, but it works! Though I was surprised/impressed by the author's ability to portray certain events accurately. Bonus points for that.
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A surprising and horrifying tale awaits in Mary. Although many elements may seem familiar at first, each moment builds to a truly twisted turn taking you to very unexpected territory.

The story also does not hold back when it comes time for some truly graphic horror. Those with an active imagination should be prepared for some challenging visuals to present themselves.
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A coworker recommended this to me. I was intrigued at first and very much unsettlingly related to the main character at first. I was very much into this book, but didn’t feel the ending did it justice. It was good, and I will say so, but wish the ending had been different.
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“There’s a corpse in the bathtub.”
What an opening sentence.

The town of Arroyo, Arizona has a strange vibe to it—the residents seem slightly strange, and there’s a giant house in the center of town where brutal murders took place. Mary Mudgett was born the day these murders took place, and returns to Arroyo near her fiftieth birthday. Mary is a strange woman. She doesn’t have a lot of friends and prefers the company of her porcelain dolls, or her Loved Ones. She can’t look women in the eye, because if she stares too long, their faces begin to melt into terrifying effigies of themselves.

The plot of Mary is fascinating. I love any book that has a strange small town with some secrets, but Mary herself was really frustrating. She’s supposed to be a fifty year old woman, but she seems more like an overgrown teenager. (Further into the story we learn some other things that make this even worse, but those are spoilers.) I understand that she’s a flawed character with some trauma, but it really doesn’t explain some of the choices she made. I’m glad she had some character growth, but by the end, I really wasn’t a big fan.

I also wish we could have seen more about the original murders. I knew they weren’t the main point of the story, but maybe a little more background would have helped me get into the story before Mary was introduced. Even though I’ve given Mary a three star rating, I still recommend it to anyone who loves a nice small town with secrets they hide from outsiders. There’s also a haunted house, and some creepy kids.

Thank you to Tor Nightfire and NetGalley for the chance to read this advanced review copy. All opinions are my own.

CW for animal death, murder, blood, gore, body horror, misogyny, animal cruelty, sexual assault, sexual violence, racism, and homophobia
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Review for Nat Cassidy’s MARY will be published in an upcoming issue of SCREAM Magazine. The writing is excellent- a great character study of a premenopausal woman. Creepy vibes!
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This was such an engrossing read. Everytime I thought I knew where this was going, I was wrong. I think animal lovers should be warned, because nobody is safe in this story.
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What an extremely weird book. Weird isn't a bad thing, just make sure your expect weird going into this one. Overall I liked the story. I just wasn't expecting what happened.
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5 start review of this book is coming to The Scariest Things! I loved it! all the characters were well done and I was scared and also laughing throughout the book. However, my biggest shock was reading the authors note after finishing and learning who was writing this woman going through her menopause journey...
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Mary.... what a fun and creepy little read.

This is a horror focusing on mid-life womanhood. It has Carrie vibes from Stephen King  which I loved.

Mary is definitely unhinged from the beginning and you start to creep into her mind and the unsettling darkness starts to unfold as each chapter presents itself.

I do have to say that this was extremely long and I don't feel that this was needed. I was getting bored. I'm more of a person that enjoys shorter novels when it packs a punch!! :)

Overall, it was decent.

Thank you to the publisher and Nat Cassidy for the arc in exchange for an honest review.

3.5/5 stars

Pub date: 7/19/22
Published to GR: 9/13/22
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You know what they say: there’s something about Mary. I absolutely loved this book and everything about it--in fact, it's one of two books I've ever read that I had to verify the author was male as the female protag was written so perfectly it was hard to believe she didn't originate in a woman's mind (to that end, I very much appreciate Cassidy's afterword on the same). Mary is a tortured creature but unapologetically herself, and as both a victim and a villain she shines throughout the horror of this book.
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Thank you Netgalley,  author, and the publishers for allowing me the opportunity to read this e-arc.
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