Another review from Divination Hollow archives for today.
By: E.V. Knight
Publisher: Raw Dog Screaming Press
Release Date: August 5th, 2021
Rating: 5/5 Stars
After her husband’s death, Sara escapes to an old farmhouse, hoping work will distract her from the pain her husband caused, and intending to research and write about the mysterious Children of Demeter commune that once lived there. The commune members, mostly women and children, disappeared overnight in 1973, leaving behind a mystery no one seems overly concerned about solving. But their disappearance also coincided with the death of the land, leaving any would-be farmers unable to grow anything on the property. Left alone with the property and her own grief, Sara starts investigating, but is soon questioning her sanity in the strange, not-as-empty-as-it-seemed house.
E.V. Knight is a really good writer. I was able to read her debut The Fourth Whore last year, which was an angry, graphic read with a heavy dose of social commentary, and it worked really well. Children of Demeter is a quieter book, but no less powerful because of it.
Let’s start with Sara, the woman who, in a sense, flees to the Children of Demeter house after her husband’s death. Sara is in pain, but she doesn’t let that stop her. She’s a middle-aged woman with a whole lot to live for, and she soon makes friends in the small town. With Sara, we have an older woman dedicated to achieving her aims, a character often overlooked in horror fiction in favour of younger female characters. And in the house, as she uncovers the mysteries of the property, she seems to be finding more of herself, even as she starts to unravel mentally. It was honestly wonderful to read this character and follow her through. Sara’s voice is beautifully written and completely draws the reader on throughout, as Sara tries to work out what is real and what is a product of her own mind.
This book is a kind of softer, more gentle horror, relying very much on tension and mystery over gore and jump scares. As Sara discovers more about the property and the Children of Demeter, she also has to deal with the mysteries of the townspeople, who each seem to have their own agenda when it comes to the house and Sara herself. There’s a grouchy farmer next door who seems to want the property, then there’s the owner of the newspaper and his wife. In her, Sara recognises something of her married self, and I really liked the relationship these two women have, the way Sara is willing to defend and stand up for others especially against arsehole men.
The cult element to this is great, and Knight fills in the backstory in such a way it doesn’t totally feel like backstory. Returning to relationships, I really like the way her friendship is portrayed with her best friend and her son, and enjoyed the section where they come to visit to record a podcast. And the podcast extracts were great, serving almost as a break in the story while also piling on the tension.
This is an excellent read, and between this and The Fourth Whore, it’s safe to say Knight is an author I’ll keep reading, whatever she comes out with next.