The books you'll want to read.
THE CATALAIN BOOK OF SECRETS by Jessica Lourey
I have two issues when it comes to Jessica Lourey’s book THE CATALAIN BOOK OF SECRETS. One is that I didn’t read it sooner. And the second is that after the book, and the novella SEVEN DAUGHTERS, there isn’t more in this world of tough-as-nails women for me to read. The book rattled around in my head for days after reading it—I couldn’t stop thinking about these women’s powerful stories. And the novella was like the last wonderful sips of a cold beer on a hot summer day when you know your refrigerator is empty of more.
The book is magical realism, but if you’re like me the first thing you think of when you hear that term is Gabriel Garcia Marquez and that famous book that high schools and colleges make you read, and that I personally did not enjoy. (Gasp! Blasphemy, I know.) But this magical realism is just that—magical. Each of the women in the multiple generations of the Catalain family has magical witchy powers that manifest in different ways. Ursula is in touch with herbs and plants and can mix up a killer potion. (Literally. But we’ll come to that.) Katrine can hear thoughts, Xenia can sew a dress that will make the women it is intended for look her absolute best—it highlights all her best features and makes her beautiful. And good Lord, who wouldn’t want that? Helena makes candies that affect emotions. I still dream about those candies, wishing they were real. Lourey provides descriptions that will quite literally make your mouth water.
The women live in the small town of Faith Falls, MN where they are picketed and reviled for being witches…but the townsfolk still sneak in for their help when the neighbors aren’t looking. The women live in a gorgeous Queen Anne with turrets and gables and a wrap-around porch…the kind of place I’ve always dreamed of living. But the ladies are under a curse.
When Ursula was a child, her mother had Ursula mix a potion to kill Ursula’s father…who was an abusive and terrible man. But as he lay dying he cursed the Catalain women. And every 25 years the evil he spewed comes back to haunt the women. In fact, during the last cycle something so terrible happened that Ursula’s daughter Jasmine cast a spell to send her beloved sister Katrine far away—and out of danger—and then denounced her own abilities. But the curse is rolling back around, and Katrine has returned home, broken-hearted after years away. And the ladies must find a way to break the curse to save the youngest Catalain girl…and themselves.
THE CATALAIN BOOK OF SECRETS is a story of family—generations of power, loss and ultimately love. The beginning of the novel is like sinking into a warm bath—learning their history and family tensions; the vivid descriptions of their lives and small town living. But Lourey quickly ratchets up the tension, until you find yourself turning the pages faster and faster to see how each of your beloved characters will make out. It’s a powerful and moving tale full of complicated yet inspirationally strong women. I can only hope Lourey revisits Faith Falls so that we can too.