Review: The Possessions by Sara Flannery Murphy

Review: The Possessions by Sara Flannery MurphyThe Possessions by Sara Flannery Murphy
Published by Harper Collins February 7, 2017
Pages: 368
Format: ARC
Source: Copy for Honest Review
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In this electrifying literary debut, a young woman who channels the dead for a living crosses a dangerous line when she falls in love with one of her clients, whose wife died under mysterious circumstances

In an unnamed city, Eurydice works for the Elysian Society, a private service that allows grieving clients to reconnect with lost loved ones. She and her fellow workers, known as “bodies“, wear the discarded belongings of the dead and swallow pills called lotuses to summon their spirits—numbing their own minds and losing themselves in the process. Edie has been a body at the Elysian Society for five years, an unusual record. Her success is the result of careful detachment: she seeks refuge in the lotuses’ anesthetic effects and distances herself from making personal connections with her clients.

But when Edie channels Sylvia, the dead wife of recent widower Patrick Braddock, she becomes obsessed with the glamorous couple. Despite the murky circumstances surrounding Sylvia’s drowning, Edie breaks her own rules and pursues Patrick, moving deeper into his life and summoning Sylvia outside the Elysian Society’s walls.

After years of hiding beneath the lotuses’ dulling effect, Edie discovers that the lines between her own desires and those of Sylvia have begun to blur, and takes increasing risks to keep Patrick within her grasp. Suddenly, she finds her quiet life unraveling as she grapples not only with Sylvia’s growing influence and the questions surrounding her death, but with her own long-buried secrets.

A tale of desire and obsession, deceit and dark secrets that defies easy categorization, The Possessions is a seductive, absorbing page-turner that builds to a shattering, unforgettable conclusion.

After I finished reading The Possessions, I had to use my Phone a Friend to discuss the genre labeling. I’ve seen some call it a romantic thriller, but I wouldn’t call it that. I’ve seen some call it a fantasy, it is in a sense, but that didn’t seem quite fitting either. We settled on psychological thriller. It’s absolutely got the psychological part down, the thriller part is there but slightly more understated.

In fact, so much of this book is written in an understated way. More on that in a minute, first let’s get to the housekeeping bit.

Edie spends her days as other people. She channels them for money, with the help of a little white pill. She never remembers the experiences, it’s as if she falls asleep for awhile as a deceased spirit takes over her body. Then she wakes as herself again. Herself, however, isn’t much of a person. She rarely socializes with others, she has more possessions belonging to dead people than she has of her own. She moves through her day always waiting to escape herself and become someone else. Someone dead.

She looks at me as if I’m the invading spirit in her child’s body.

Edie is very good at moving through her life in a systematic and cold way. She has to be in order to avoid a past she won’t discuss and does not want to remember. Patrick, a new client, makes that all the more difficult. He’s hired her to channel his wife who’s death is surrounded by questions. Edie immediately feels a connection, but that connection is more with Sylvia, the dead wife, than with Patrick – the man she believes she’s falling in love with.

The Possessions introduces an interesting and thought provoking plot. If you could, would you want to contact a deceased love one? To what end or purpose? Is it healing or does it draw out the process of grief? All of these things are touched on in this tale. But one other thing is, as well. If a spirit could inhabit your body for a short period of time, could they do it for longer? Would they ever want to leave it?

For a crooked second, Sylvia is in the room with me. A drowned specter, white skin peeling away like fruit rind, eyelids eaten into filigree by the fish.

For Edie and Sylvia, that’s the key question, as Sylvia becomes more and more a part of Edie and Edie is all too willing to let her stay. To be her. The more time she spends as Sylvia, with Patrick, the more she digs in to Sylvia’s life…and her death. A search that eventually uncovers everyone’s secrets, including her own. 

Back to that understated part. Murphy wrote this book with a slow pace that still keeps you excited enough to turn the page. It’s written with a creepiness that’s indirect, I guess would be the word for it. It’s not blatant on the page. You feel like you are reading normal, every day thoughts of a lonely and quiet woman, until she thinks of wanting to slide her fingernail under skin and peel it all away. Then it’s right back to a sense of quiet normalcy.

It’s a strange read, very different than anything I’ve read in quite a long time. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I did wish the end had been a bit stronger, but it felt genuine to Edie’s character, so I won’t give it too much flack. It’s a solid start to Murphy’s career and I’ll be watching for more from her. 

 


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