Violet, by Scott Thomas

Short Take: A loving ode to housework.

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(*Note: I received an advance copy of this book for review.*)

Good morning Nerdlings! I recently had a life-altering experience. I have apparently lived a whole lot of adult years without ever making oatmeal no-bake cookies, and now, I’m afraid, there’s no going back. These little chewy chocolate peanut butter flavor bombs may just be the perfect food. Breakfast? Sure! Dessert? Oh heck yeah. Quick energy snack when trying to power through a dull book? I’LL TAKE THREE. Unfortunately, my pants are not happy with my newfound love, but some books require copious amounts of sugar. Exhibit A: Violet.

The town of Pacington, Kansas used to be a tourist destination for one reason: the beautifully named Lost Lake, where summer visitors enjoy fishing, swimming, and boating in its crystal clear waters. However, Lost Lake didn’t always exist – it formed when a worker accidentally broke through an underground spring, and flooded part of the town, killing two workers. In recent years, however, the local economy hasn’t been great, the town is becoming more shabby than old-fashioned, and Pacington seems to be dying.

For Kris Barlow Lost Lake is much more than a pretty body of icy cold water with an odd roof sticking out of it. As a young child, it’s where her family spent idyllic summers until the final one, when her mother died an agonizingly slow death of cancer in the bedroom of their lakefront house. Kris’s father, grief-stricken, never returned to the house, choosing to let it rot rather than relive the memories of that last summer.

Now in her mid-40’s, after the sudden death of her husband, Kris decides to take her traumatized eight-year-old daughter Sadie to the lake house for a summer in hopes that the happy place of her own childhood will help Sadie heal from the loss of her own father.

Duckies, do I need to tell you that living near a drowned town rarely goes well for heartbroken children? 

What follows is a fairly cliche ghost story, told in an excruciatingly slow pace. We get two scenes of actual story, then literally 100 pages of Kris and Sadie cleaning the house. Sanding boards, dusting counters, and for some REAL excitement (I guess) washing windows.

The rest of Violet isn’t much better. Kris’s brain is flooding (see what I did there?) with things she sort-of remembers but would rather forget, but it’s nothing that a big heaping helping of prescription drug abuse won’t fix. Sadie is content to chill with her imaginary (suuuuuure) friend while Kris is mostly passed out in between washing bedding and making grilled cheese.

Whenever Kris and Sadie venture into town and interact with the locals, there are the obligatory hints that Things Are Not Right with Pacington, but these are few and far between. The characters themselves are little more than a loose assemblage of tropes – the eccentric guy, the tragic couple, the elderly woman who knows the local history.  But really, who needs a story when we can read about bracing a railing? 

It all leads up to your generic ghost story climax with flashing lightning and a struggle in the water, but by that point, I just wanted it to be over. Other than the main character being a veterinarian as opposed to a writer (seriously, why are protagonists in ghost stories always writers?) there was not one single aspect of this story that made it different from a few dozen others.

The Nerd’s Rating: TWO HAPPY NEURONS (and a grilled cheese, hold the Xanax. I will take the wine, however. And maybe one more oatmeal no-bake.)twohappyneurons

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