My Throat an Open Grave
by Tori Bovalino
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Pub Date 20 Feb 2024 | Archive Date 20 Mar 2024
Page Street Publishing, Page Street YA
Labyrinth meets folk horror in this darkly romantic tale of a girl who wishes her baby brother away to the Lord of the Wood
Growing up in the small town of Winston, Pennsylvania feels like drowning. Leah goes to church every Sunday, works when she isn’t at school, and takes care of her baby brother, Owen. Like every girl in Winston, she tries to be right and good and holy. If she isn’t the Lord of the Wood will take her, and she’ll disappear like so many other girls before her.
But living up to the rigorous standards of the town takes its toll. One night, when Owen won’t stop screaming, Leah wishes him away, and the Lord listens. The screaming stops, and all that’s left in the crib is a small bundle of sticks tied with a ribbon.
Filled with shame and the weight of the town’s judgment, Leah is forced to cross the river into the Lord of the Wood’s domain to bring Owen back. But the devilish figure who has haunted Winston for generations isn’t what she expects. He tells her she can have her brother back—for the price of a song. A song that Leah will have one month to write.
It’s a bargain that will uncover secrets her hometown has tried to keep buried for decades. And what she unearths will have her questioning everything she’s been taught to fear.
"A must-read for truth seekers and those hoping to glimpse a world built around kindness and acceptance."
—Booklist, starred review
"In this darkly atmospheric tale of folk horror, Bovalino [...] employs sophisticated prose to perceptively examine the town’s unspecified oppressive religious institutions and how its tenets keep the young women of Winston from achieving their full potential or pursuing happiness."
"Bovalino [...] is proving to be a master of atmosphere, mining the insularity of a small town to maximize tension while still emphasizing the unnatural elements in the seemingly more welcoming but still unsettling village in the woods."
“Whimsical, dark, and acutely painful. This is a story that will reach into your soul, pull taut, and make itself at home there.”
—M.K. Lobb, author of the Seven Faceless Saints duology
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 102 members
'My Throat an Open Grave' captures the allure of David Bowie's Labyrinth, the edge to tales like Peter Pan/Alice in Wonderland, and the fear experienced at every campfire ghost storytelling.
The story's unfolding, portraying just how normal yet subnormal the town/setting is, was a significant tool of Tori Bovalino's. I have read all of their work, and some have hit the mark & others have missed; the one thing that remains consistent is their unique craftmanship to twist just the right amount of reality/magic/other in a story.
This book did a fantastic showing the contradiction of religious towns and how toxic the views enforced can be to women - because it's always women who suffer or must sacrifice to appeal to men. The restriction of views showed how Winston was indeed the monstrous place & not the land owned by the Lord of the Woods. Leah was such a good character; her choices & emotions were complex & displayed an ache that was warped by her town's views. So, her journey to reclaim Owen was relieving to see.
Labyrinth meets folk horror in this dark romantic story about a girl who wishes her baby brother away to the Lord of the Wood but now must get him back. Leah is from Winston, Pennsylvania, raised in a town where all girls have to be "good" and holy. If you aren't the Lord of the Wood will take you and you'll disappear like many other girls before. Yet living with such rigid standards has its costs and having to look at her baby brother every single day, his screaming, his crying, the constant toll, she just wishes he would disappear... and the Lord listens and takes him. Now the town forces Leah to go to the Lord's domain and get her brother back and if she doesn't she'll die. The town's people already hate her and are more than happy to send her to her death, all they want is her brother back. Yet when she ventures into the Lord's domain she never expects to meet a handsome man, a welcoming and kind community, and the fact that everything she's ever been told about the Lord of the Woods might be completely wrong. He offers her brother back in exchange for a song, and she has one month to write it... yet she begins seeing the ghosts of previous girls who were here, who were said to have been freed, and soon she begins to uncover the dark buried secrets of her hometown and who the monsters truly are. This was a really atmospheric gothic read and I do enjoy a twisted hometown mystery and the fact that there is a Labyrinth twist? I can't resist it. This was a really great read and makes for the perfect book to read in the autumn/spooky season!
*Thanks Netgalley and Page Street Publishing, Page Street YA for sending me an arc in exchange for an honest review*
I went in to this totally blind, just because Tori Bovalino wrote it. That’s all I needed to know. This is one of those books that I vibed with instantly and knew that I was going to love it. That feeling never wavered once. This is has The Labyrinth vibes, and as soon as I started seeing it, I was hooked.
Living in the super religious town of Winston, Leah has tried to walk the path, told from a very young age that she must or the Lord of the Wood would take her.
A teenager helping her mother raise her baby brother Owen, she loses all hope one night and wishes for the Lord of the Wood to take him. When he does, Leah is led to the church, marked, and forced to go across the river to bring him home.
What she finds when crossing is not at all what she expected. Faced with the Lord of the Wood himself, she has trouble equating the lore with what is in front of her eyes, though she is untrusting. For the price of one song, she can get her brother back, but can it really be that easy?
This was dark and stunningly written. The end had me in tears. I loved the world created in these pages. I wanted to escape into it.
On seeing the UK cover reveal for Tori Bovalino's newest book on Instagram, I immediately rushed onto Netgalley to request a proof. Not only is the UK cover beautiful, but the premise of a 'Labyrinth' retelling fused with folk horror sounded like exactly my kind of book. And I was not disappointed!
This book is short, readable in a day, and wonderfully atmospheric. The mystery of the Lord of the Woods, the town of Winston and the girls caught in the middle of it all unravels slowly over the course of the novel in an intriguing and satisfying manner. The story is suitably creepy at times, beautiful at others and, all in all, enjoyable and engaging.
Thank-you very much to the publishers and Netgalley for providing me with an advanced reader copy of the book for review!