5 Stars: I loved it
You may like this book if you like:
Silent Hill (first movie)
Summary: The spirit of La Llorona has her sights set on Alejandra and she won’t stop until she drags Alejandra into the same darkness all the women that came before her were dragged into.
Thoughts: This story explores the horror of intergenerational curses, toxic cycles, and the trauma that’s passed on from parent to child if those who come before can’t heal. Breaking the cycle may not mean having to battle an ancient demon but this story illustrates how monumental a task that can be.
Alejandra was a fully fleshed out character and perfectly crafted for this story. I felt Alejandra’s despair and I shared many of her worries about motherhood. The fear of failing as a parent, passing on unhealthy coping mechanisms to my (future) children, not knowing enough about my heritage to pass on to my children.
While I feel like this story was done well symbolically, the monster was also genuinely scary. The description of it was very creepy, definitely something you might see at the edge of your vision in the middle of the night. I didn’t know much about La Llorona (except from that shitty La Llorona movie that came out a few years back), but it was cool to learn a little more about her.
I loved that the breaking of the curse is finding community, learning about your heritage, and taking action for your own story. Horror stories don’t often offer a solution for the topics it touches on but I appreciated the conclusions this story came to.
While I appreciate this book a lot, it did lag at points. I’m willing to overlook that because I enjoyed it but other readers may not.
TW: Suicide, body horror, mental illness, SA, Death
“I want to be a healed woman. A strong woman for whatever comes next.”
I really enjoyed this story, even the view points from a very long time ago. I was worried they would be difficult to read but they weren't. As someone who doesn't want kids, I really felt for Alejandra. The ending was excellent even if a little vulgar.
DNF. The writing is not for me, making it hard to connect with the characters and the story. It has a very good premise though. If you have horror, go for it!
A wonderful book that I thoroughly enjoyed! While I will say this book was a little slow to start, it eventually picks up and pays off in one of the most amazing ways!
An interesting and unique take on motherhood and generational trauma. Not what I expected based on the description!
Unfortunately, I could not give this book my full attention. It was a slow dreary start and it was very triggering. Hate to say it but I don’t recommend
I would like to thank Del Rey for providing a digital copy of this novel via NetGalley. The Haunting of Alejandra tells the story of a young lady at a crossroads in her life--trying to make sense of her tormented state of mind. The novel explores the legend of La Llorona. The chapters alternate between Alejandra's story and that of her ancestors, specifically the female line. By doing so, the connection to the La Llorona legend is brought to light. This switch between timelines was well executed as we see how the same torment being experienced by Alejandra was experienced by the female members of her bloodline. At the same time, the novel demonstrates how legends can often stray from the real events that inspired them. The story was griping and kept the reader invested in its ultimately satisfying resolution.
"We listen to the women who came before us. We change the future by unloading the sorrow of the past. We sever the cord of generational curses. Some cords are meant to shrivel away. They are our blood, we are not them. We do not have to accept it. None of it."
These lines appear twice in V. Castro's The Haunting of Alejandra: once in the latter part of the novel as quoted above, and once in modified form before the start of the novel as an epigraph attributed to one of Alejandra's ancestors, Flor Castillo, soldadera and mother. The epigraph represents the thematic core of the novel, and the dual occupation of Flor equally represents the defining characteristics of protagonist
Alejandra and all the women of her family who came before.
Castro gives all of these women voice through chapters that vary between the point of view of protagonist Alejandra and her predecessors, from the birth mother she has just been reunited with to the original ancestor who made a deal with a demonic creature to begin the generational curse. This construction very effectively establishes the themes of generational horrors, of inherited, perpetuated trauma. It also allows Castro to demonstrate how (as the epigraph implies) overcoming these horrors comes though collective, generational powers of support and committed resilience.
The ancient demonic entity that adopts the form of the legendary La Llorna feeds off of the doubts and self-hatred that it provokes in its victims down the female line through Alejandra and her eldest daughter. Uniquely, passages also provide point of view from this creature. This allows Castro to really shine with her strengths in writing depictions of the literal, physical horrific. With the supernatural antagonistic force of La Llorna, Castro couples antagonistic realism in the form of Alejandra's husband. Unfortunately, Castro fails to develop this human character to the extent of her supernatural creature, making him an over-the-top, cardboard model of callous and abusive masculinity.
On the other end of the spectrum, Castro includes a supportive character for Alejandra apart from the generational ties, a therapist and curendera who helps guide Alejandra down the path of self-affirmation and listening to her heart and generational guidance to find a way to overcome both the supernatural curse and the husband/culture that afflict her. Yet, this therapist is cast in equally cardboard fashion, making such 'realistic' elements of the novel less believable than the fantastic horror.
Aside from the underdevelopment of these two key secondary characters, The Haunting of Alejandra also suffers from unnatural dialogue and overwrought internal monologue. This issue pervades all of the points-of-view through the novel, tied to a lack of distinctive voice (or authorial writing style) for each of the characters through the generations of time and context. While highlighting the similarities between Alejandra and her ancestors is integral to the themes of the novel, Castro fails to balance that with any diversity in character voice or eccentricities of dialogue to make any view seem unique or fresh.
Despite such significant flaws, The Haunting of Alejandra remains an entertaining and interesting read just through its conceptual mastery of literal horror and allegory, as well as Castro's superior skills at writing descriptive text, particularly passages of pure horror genre. The horror of The Haunting of Alejandra probably won't be scary, but it will be unsettling with flashes of terror. Body horror best describes what Castro works with here, and its a form that has often been explored by female horror writers that
compare the blood associated with female biology with traditional horror gore. It plays with concepts of what is beautiful and natural with what is considered disgusting and unnatural. What should be celebrated and talked about/looked upon openly versus what should be stopped or overcome. Though a familiar avenue of horror speculation, Castro both does it well and gives it a fresh perspective by tying it to this new take on La Llorona. For this alone, fans of horror genre should appreciate what Castro sets out to do and accomplishes in The Haunting of Alejandra.
CONCLUSION: In The Haunting of Alejandra, Castro conceptually captures generational female horror and its transcendence through resilient collective feminine power. The novel perfectly balances allegorical horrors of psychology and culture with literal supernatural terrors, as well as the wondrous blood and viscera of biology with chilling gore. Though offering a refreshing take on the Mexican legend of La Llorona through a multiplicity of POVs, Castro's execution of the novel falters with unnatural dialogue and overworked interior monologue.. Similarities in the stories of Alejandra and her ancestors work well, but fail to be balanced by any diversity in their voices. Despite flaws in the novel, Castro's descriptive passages reward richly, particularly in those moments of pure horror. While The Haunting of Alejandra may not be scary per se, its unsettling spiritual terrors bridged with onslaughts of psychological trauma should be enjoyed by devoted horror genre fans.
As a mother myself this book definitely touched on some topics that I related and sympathized with the main character on, as well as the generational trauma that can plague a family. It was a bit of a slow burn but as I kept reading I began to appreciate that fact. I'm still not sure if V. Castro's writing style is for me but I'm definitely interested in reading more from her in the future.
This book was good. Read this for book club! Trigger warnings for depression. I thought it was greatly written. It did not have the folk tale of La Llorona like I thought it would.
I wish I wouldn't have taken so long to read The Haunting of Alejandra. The cover is beautiful, but I thought it was going to be scary. While it did have some horror elements, I enjoyed the cultural journey that Alejandra brought us on. Her growth throughout the novel and the women/ancestor empowerment was so well done. I loved learning more about Mexican culture and La Llorona. I would definitely read another book by V. Castro. Thank you to NetGalley, V. Castro, and Random House Publishing Group for the chance to read this in exchange for an honest review.
Title: The Haunting of Alejandra
Author: V. Castro
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️/3 stars
After checking this book out twice, having it sit in my netgalley app for over 6 months, I finally made myself read this dang book! I liked it but I didn't love it. I enjoyed learning more about the urban legend about La Llorona and the history surrounding her story.
After having her third child, Alejandra has felt like she has completely lost her mind and her identity. Her husband is absent in most situations of their life, and she feels extremely alone. Seeking help from therapy, she starts to talk with Melanie, who has very similar beliefs. This is a huge relief to share her heaviness with someone that she can trust. Recently, Alejandra had found her biological mother and had started to build a relationship with her. Alejandra begins to learn that the torment and the recent hallucinations that she's been seeing actually have a long history in the women of her birth mother's family. This actually attributed to Alejandra's mother, Cathy, to put her up for adoption.
A woman in white, possibly La Llorona, has been feeding off of this lineage of women for too long. Alejandra is determined to end this curse once and for all!
Published: April 18th, 2023
Thank you, @netgalley and @randomhouse, for this ARC in exchange for my honest review!
V. Castro is one of the leading voices in the horror genre right now. "The Haunting of Alejandra" is a beautiful retelling of the classic Mexican folktale of La Llorn. Like Castro's other work, the story is sensual and empowering while also terrifying. The concept is so strong and promising.
Unfortunately, this story fails to deliver as well as her others. Some of the elements of Alejandra's character feel far too dramatic and overdone. The plot itself is clumsy and cluttered in comparison to Castro's other work. I will continue to seek out her writing, but this one just didn't do it for me.
Thank you to the author, NetGalley and Del Rey for the advance copy!
Bummed I didn't love this one as I've very much enjoyed Castro's other work. Maybe it was a matter of me simply not being the right audience but I struggled to connect with the main character and what she was going through. I also found the writing itself to be strangely stilted, which is odd as I don't remember that being the case with Castro's other novels.
V. Castro is a singular voice in the horror genre - sensual, empowering, terrifying, and strange. Her work doesn't just offer alternative perspectives of the world; they change yours. Here, Alejandra is a woman struggling with her prescribed roles in the world, wife and mother, and she finds herself haunted by a dark specter she comes to realize is La Llorona. Only by unraveling generations of women's trauma can she hope to save her children and herself.
Castro dives into Alejandra's perspective in ways that feel suffocating, claustrophobic, and, yes, haunting. The horrors of motherhood, lost agency, and abandonment/trauma are explored and build to a satisfying conclusion. It was hard to put the book down once I started reading. Castro's use of body horror - both the natural and supernatural - create vivid imagery. The figure of La Llorona is suitably terrifying but she's also humanized as Castro explore how centuries of trauma can rewrite and create trauma. Also, that cover is gorgeous and captures both the brightness and darkness of the narrative.
Overall, I recommend The Haunting of Alejandra for women who are battling against nature versus nurture, for mothers struggling with expectations, and for readers of horror dripped in folklore.
The Haunting of Alejandra by V. Castro is a spellbinding novel that fuses otherworldly horror and supernatural elements with human emotion, problems and turmoil. By doing this fusion the story is all the better for it as it allows for a stronger connection to Alejandra's plight with La Llorona as well as the struggle she is enduring in her marriage. The book is an easy highly enjoyable fast read due to the already mentioned fusion and the way that fusion interacts, creates, and ripples around the characters and the world they live in.
The pace of the book made this a page turner. It captured the essence of Mexican culture. It was hauntingly beautiful and captivating.
Sadly I had to DNF this book,the book felt like a chore to read and I just couldn’t handle it anymore.
Thank you NetGalley and to the publishers for giving me an early release copy in exchange for my honest review.
Mexican folklore meets women’s fiction and horror, in this novel pulling from the legend of La Llorona. Alejandra feels like she losing herself as a mom and wife and wants to end things, but little does she know how every woman before her in her family has gone through something similar, as all are also being haunted by the shadows and an apparition of a woman crying in a white gown. Together, the women of this family will gather all their strength in fighting this demon instead of succumbing to the darkness.
This was a refreshing horror novel full of folklore, with plenty of time hops and POV changes.
Thank you to Del Rey for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.
Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group for this free ARC.
An interesting retelling of the Mexican Myth of La Llorona. It was hard for me to get into this story at first becuase her family were just so horrid!