Darling has its demons.
Cherry LaRouche escaped the claws of Darling, Louisiana at sixteen. When she is forced to return after her mother’s death, Cherry and her children move back into her childhood home where the walls whisper and something sinister skitters across the roof at night.
While Cherry tries to settle back into a town where evil spreads like infection, the bodies of several murdered children turn up. When Cherry’s own daughter goes missing, she’s forced to confront the true monsters of Darling.
Thank you so much to Black Spot Books for the ARC of this novel that gives new meaning to the phrase ‘you can’t go home again’. Darling is anything but– and I mean this in the vein of the story as well as the town it’s named for. What Mercedes has created is an evocative peek into monstrous people and the places that make them. In these pages, we meet characters that pull your heartstrings; including some of the best representation I’ve seen for autistic children. We encounter broken people trying their best, and some who are trying to drag others down with them. There’s bullies, first loves, mysteries, killers, and bystanders. At the center of it all, there’s Cherry.
We meet our protagonist as she has received a haunting phone call from the city she grew up in, letting her know that her mother has passed away. This fact leaves Cherry unchanged; her maternal figure was unkind to her in her youth and they had not had a close relationship in some time. However, the news that Iris had left her daughter her childhood home rocked her world. Cherry has two children, and the house in Darling has been paid for in full (including all the bills) until five years time. She can’t say no to this prospect of giving her kids a better life as they are barely scraping by. Cherry runs into old friends, old enemies, and haunting memories once she’s back in Darling. The dark of the town doesn’t take long to seep into every nook and cranny of her home as children are going missing from all over– and one night, Cherry’s daughter joins them.
This whirlwind of a tale has so much heart and ferocity. Cherry has teeth and claws, and it is her strength that drives the plot. She endures so much between these pages, and it is a testament to a mother’s love, and the survival of spirit in the midst of trauma. Darling, the namesake, is a snapshot of how suffering can effect a person. Some, like Cherry, grow tougher for it. Others yearn for the taste of blood and to continue the cycle of hurt. In the end, it is those types that are the true fiends. I think that’s what Darling, the book, showcases best. You are not your anguish, but your reaction to it. The infection doesn’t waste any time infecting those around you.