Book Title: The Grave Tender
Author: Eliza Maxwell
REVIEWED BY: CHELSEA
Genres: Southern Gothic Fiction, Mystery, Suspense
Date Read: 06/13/17
Pub Date (US): 04/11/17
Endless questions from a shadow-filled East Texas childhood haunt Hadley Dixon. People said her mother, Winnie, was never quite right, but with one single, irreparable act, life as Hadley knew it was shattered. The aftershocks of that moonlit night left her reeling, but the secrets and lies had started long before.
When a widowed and pregnant Hadley returns years later, it’s not the safe harbor she expects. The mysteries surrounding a local boy’s disappearance remain, and the townspeople still whisper about Hadley’s strange and reclusive Uncle Eli—whispers about a monster in their midst.
But Hadley’s father and grandmother, the cornerstones of everything safe in her world, avoid her questions. If Hadley stays here, will she be giving her children the family they need, or putting their lives in danger?
The hunt for answers takes a determined Hadley deep into the pine forests, in search of sunlight that will break through the canopy of lies long enough to reveal the truth.
You may think you have read dark fiction, but unless you’ve picked up The Grave Tender by Eliza Maxwell then you don’t know the definition of the words. Descriptions such as disturbing, heavy, melancholy, and sorrowful come to mind when I think of what words to use in painting a picture of what this book was. Why in the world would anyone want to read such a story? Quite simply, the writing was beautiful and intoxicating; as languishing as the majority of the story’s content was, the setting wrapped me up in a warm, welcoming hug that made this Georgia peach feel at home. I am a huge sucker for southern gothic fiction, and this was southern gothic fiction done well.
I’m not even sure where to begin discussing this book. A large part of me just wants to keep telling you how hauntingly beautiful it was, but I don’t want to over-do it. My middle name is drama queen; just ask my mom and dad. However, it was a truly moving read that will not be for the faint of heart. Some of the trigger worthy topics include (but aren’t limited to): Rape, Incest, Domestic Abuse (Spousal and Child), Child Molestation, Murder, etc. That’s a whole lot to handle in under 240 pages, and while that may deter some readers (and no one blames you if it does), it was all done tastefully with class, structured more to create a moving novel than factors just added for shock value. Everything flows together, but I did find that I couldn’t just binge read this one. It definitely had that compulsive, can’t-put-it-down factor, but I had to set it aside for a few hours at times just to keep myself from falling too far down a hole of depression and anxiety.
Honestly, I feel my only minor complaint was that I wanted more! I was really into these characters, and I feel like just an extra 50-75 pages to further develop a few of the relationships and current day storyline would have made this quite possibly my top read of 2017. If you enjoy your literature haunting with a lining of hope, I can’t imagine you’ll find anything more excellent that’s set in Texas than The Grave Tender. I may have to move to a new gym as the other patrons are weirded out that I was tearing up on the treadmill (I’m not crying; YOU’RE crying!) but it’s a small price to pay for being privy to such a touching story. I won’t soon forget this book and would love to discuss with others who have read it. I’ve moved Maxwell up my list of authors who I stalk their books and publishing schedule and you should too! Yay for friendly stalking! 😉
*Many thanks to the publisher for providing my copy via NetGalley; it was a pleasure to provide my honest thoughts here.