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Andreya's Asylum

Insanity, horror and dark fiction are my catharsis. Brutally honest reviews are on the house.


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Review of Michael McDowell's Wicked Stepmother

Wicked Stepmother - Michael McDowell, Axel Young, Dennis Schuetz

This is the third novel by Michael McDowell that I have read and my favorite to date. Although a few parts were a little drawn out, the pace of the novel was generally good and well worth a few extra words. Michael McDowell's prose, as always, is beautiful and entertaining and his characters believably imperfect. What I have loved since I picked up my first McDowell novel is how unique and realistic all of his characters are; they are flawed and comical in a way that is more human than forced. The literary world lost an author who could see and reflect the interesting aspects of people who aren't extraordinary or extreme but who are intimately just like you and me.


Wicked Stepmother is the story of three rich adult siblings who end up simultaneously orphaned and with a new stepmother after the suspicious death of their father. What starts out as a nuisance quickly starts to escalate as Louise Lerner, their instant stepmother - just add water - makes it her mission to inject herself as deeply as she can into the lives of the remaining Hawke family. Verity, Cassandra and Jonathan, who have always had free reign in how they live their lives suddenly find themselves under a microscope and Louise's attempts to try and control them as if they were children. With her ever-creeping presence and talons out trying to latch onto the family fortune, the only thing Louise has standing in her way are three disposable heirs.


My only issue with this story, and perhaps it's a mixture of the era and the culture that I'm failing to grasp, but I find it hard to believe that adults would subject themselves to their father's wife of four days as their stepmother in any form of acceptance, especially a woman that they despised to begin with. That said, Verity was my absolute favorite character in this book, addictions and all, and single-handedly would have made this an awesome read by herself. However, you get more than just Verity and a new spin on a classic tale of the wicked stepmother.


As always, Valancourt did an awesome job not only bringing back this classic McDowell novel but in re-packaging it into something you want to have on your bookshelf. My copy was generously provided in exchange for a review from the same awesome guys at Valancourt Books in exchange for an honest review.


© 2016 by Andi Rawson of Andreya's Asylum