Author: Eliza Maxwell
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
First Published: April 11, 2017
Genres: Mystery, Southern Gothic, Thriller
Format: ARC, eBook
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.
The Grave Tender is a haunting and beautifully woven southern gothic about a broken family and the love that binds them together. The story starts slow as the story introduces Hadley, her friends, family, and their small town which on the surface seems idyllic. It’s the sort of town where everyone knows each other over generations, but the smiling town hides many secrets.
What I loved most about this book was how it dealt with matters of appearance. It’s easy to point fingers and blame those that look the most guilty, who are the most eccentric. It’s the folly of letting appearances dictate our perception of the people around us. Evil is committed every day by seemingly normal people, and true monsters masquerade under the guise of banality.
“I believe that life is full of tragedy. Some lives more than others. But I also believe that comfort can be found with the people that love you . . . if you’re willing to let them give it.”
The book deals with some of the most horrible situations a person can go through with extreme delicacy. Not everyone has a happy ending, sometimes there are crimes that go unpunished, sometimes victims never receive justice, some wounds heal but many more never do. I cried so much while reading this book because of how close to home it hit for me, I was honestly touched.
I can’t say much more about the book because it’s really the sort of story that needs to be experienced without spoilers. I will however note that the content in this book is difficult to stomach. For a survivor of abuse, it can be either cathartic or utterly horrifying, which is why I’ve added a trigger warning in the list of warnings below. I cautiously recommend this book for those ready for a poignant and unflinchingly honest exploration of domestic abuse.