Sarai Walker already wrote Dietland (a book I’m now eager to read), but she somehow escaped my radar until June, when I requested The Cherry Robbers on Netgalley. Goodreads listed it as gothic horror, which is something I can’t resist: someone drops gothic horror in my close proximity = I jump. Or, I request it. Knee-jerk reaction at its best.
At any rate, I’m so glad I’m wired this way, because The Cherry Robbers is wow. Delightful.
The highly anticipated second novel from Sarai Walker, following her “slyly subversive” (EW) cult-hit Dietland—a feminist gothic about the lone survivor of a cursed family of sisters, whose time may finally be up.
New Mexico, 2017: Sylvia Wren is one of the most important American artists of the past century. Known as a recluse, she avoids all public appearances. There’s a reason: she’s living under an assumed identity, having outrun a tragic past. But when a hungry journalist starts chasing her story, she’s confronted with whom she once was: Iris Chapel.
Connecticut, 1950: Iris Chapel is the second youngest of six sisters, all heiresses to a firearms fortune. They’ve grown up cloistered in a palatial Victorian house, mostly neglected by their distant father and troubled mother, who believes that their house is haunted by the victims of Chapel weapons. The girls long to escape, and for most of them, the only way out is marriage. But not long after the first Chapel sister walks down the aisle, she dies of mysterious causes, a tragedy that repeats with the second, leaving the rest to navigate the wreckage, to heart-wrenching consequences.
Ultimately, Iris flees the devastation of her family, and so begins the story of Sylvia Wren. But can she outrun the family curse forever?
Cover: Pretty but scary? Pretty and scary? Ominous with ribbons? I don’t know but I like it.
- The Cherry Robbers is the story of Sylvia Wren, a world-famous artist. Or maybe it’s the story of Iris Chapel, the fifth of the six Chapel sisters, heiresses and all doomed from birth. The two tales, set on different timelines, entwine in the diaries Sylvia decides to write, unhearting secrets that have been kept under wraps for decades.
- My favorite character is Sylvia, because while the transformation she undergoes is tragic and life-altering, she emerges as a better person. I’m not sure how she manages to do so, where she’s drawing her strength from (Lola would be the obvious answer, but not quite right); the thing is, she’s an inspiration. It’s not easy to achieve that with a fictional character.
- The story is engaging to the max, and Walker’s style is direct, clean. Forget useless descriptions, forget digressions: everything is relevant to the plot. I’ve got half a mind to start a Walker fanclub, because this, this, is how you write a good novel. Also, I just love the concept behind it.
- Walker’s prose is sublime, as I was saying. The Cherry Robbers is written in first person, a style that’s hard to master for many authors; as a general rule, I prefer to steer clear of it for the most part, because I don’t have the patience to dive through endless strings of I&action. Here? None of that happens. Impeccable writing, spotless flow.
- The ending is so good. Detailed yet spoiler-free reviews are a point of pride for me, so I’m not going to divulge any detail. Find out what happens, dear fellow readers, because you won’t be disappointed. Maybe a little bit sad, maybe surprised, but not disappointed.
- Uh. Nothing. This picky reader is 100% satisfied.
5 stars on GR, and my opening line bears repeating: wow.