“I am where dead children go.”
And if that isn’t enough to hook you this October, maybe these things will. A girl climbing up out of a well, broken-necked and ravenous for the kill. Dolls whose eyes glow blacker than black as they hold exorcised spirits. Headless doves crashing through school windows. The ghosts of murdered children clinging round the necks of who killed them. Little girls who describe ladies in black standing right behind you. Tattoos that writhe in agony of their own volition. And the counting–the incessant counting, the counting that will not (cannot) stop.
This is every nightmare you’ve ever known. This is The Girl from the Well, written by Rin Chupeco.
The story begins with an unnamed spirit stalking a man who thought he’d gotten away with murder. He is vile, a monster, and unbeknownst to him, chained to the spirit of the girl he murdered. The only way for her to be free is for someone to avenge her death. And that’s where our girl comes in. She frightens him, chills him, building to horror as she gurgles her vengeance and crushes him in her will. This is Okiku, and this is her life for the past 300 years.
She hunts in bursts, floating around the world seeking out more and more spirits to free, as their light nourishes her. She thinks very little of the living unless it is to torment then mutilate the evil ones who have killed innocents. Then one day, in a small and sleepy American-pie town, she happens upon a boy named Tark.
The trauma of Tark’s past haunts him. The tattoos on his body seem to have a life of their own. The murder of a schoolmate weighs on him. His mother’s madness threatens to kill him. To adapt, he is sarcastic and has cultivated a carelessness in his attitude that only barely covers up his fear and self-loathing. Yet he is eager to find someone, anyone, who will listen when he says, “There’s someone in the mirror with me when I’m alone, and she’s getting closer.”
Okiku sees the truth. And for reasons unknown, she is drawn to him, to protect him and those who are close to him, sacrificing her own identity and purpose as she follows Tark across the globe to keep him safe.
This book captivated me from the first page. In it I found the roots of my fear for dolls and movies like The Ring and The Grudge. It gets into you and doesn’t let go. Chupeco’s writing compels readers with lines like, “I exist in a period of dreamlessness, a series of finite instances where I think little of things and dwell on the wonders of nothing . . . But soon the rage curls again, the quiet places inside me that whisper, whisper whispering find more find more and so I rise, driven to seek out, to devour to make to break to take.”
The characters are rich in their complexities. Okiku is a ravenous killer, but she is not the monster she thinks she is. Tark is a sarcastic teen, but he is scared to death and sick of it, willing to try anything to understand his own past and his irrepressibly bizarre present. Another dominant character, Tark’s cousin Callie, cannot understand the world she’s found herself in, and though she finds it difficult to trust anything and anyone involved, doesn’t shy away from playing her part. These characters are real, though not all of them breathe the air of the living.
And I mean it when I say this is where nightmares come from. Little did I know before reading this book that exorcising spirits into doll bodies isn’t JUST a hyper-inflated “voodoo” thing, but that it actually has lots of roots in Asia. There is an actual Valley of Dolls and Temple of Dolls in Japan. Now, I haven’t been able to find any records online (yet) about the types of ceremony depicted in this book, but Chupeco’s capacity to transform ancient legend into such deep-seated fear of inanimate things (really, dolls that can move on their own are FREAKY), well….I applaud her.
While The Girl From the Well lacks the lingering horror that writers like Stephen King possess in droves, it is (as far as I know) her first published work (someone correct me if I’m wrong). I can’t wait to read the sequel, The Suffering, which takes Tark’s perspective in the years after The Girl From the Well. And definitely the best way for me to start my favorite month of the year <3.
About The Author
Rin Chupeco was born and raised in Manila, The Philippines. She credits her love of horror to reading Stephen King’s Pet Semetary, and her love of writing to Neil Gaiman.
Her Girl From the Well Series includes The Girl From The Well and The Suffering. Her latest book, The Bone Witch, is due for release in March 2017.
Have you read this book or any of her other works? If so, let me know what you thought! And happy October!