The thing about any debut novel is that you just don’t know what you’re going to get. The press release for Housewitch, however, was highly promising. Schickel and her protagonist are both mothers of three trying to navigate the world we live in as moms every day. Trying to balance remembering who we are with meeting the needs of our families can feel precarious, stressful, pointless, fulfilling, and joyful by turns. Trying to meet the needs of a houseful of people equally at all times is like spinning plates in the air with your hands tied behind your back- or like performing magic when you’ve long forgotten to believe it exists. Allison Darling, our hero in Housewitch, must do all of the above, and I think you’ll love her for it as much as I did.
From a literary standpoint, it’s easy to go wrong when you are telling a large part of the story through flashbacks while trying to simultaneously advance the narrative in the present day- a problem Schickel does not have. The flashbacks are compelling and mysterious and slowly allow us to gain insight into the characters over the course of the book. My biggest problem with any mystery- and there is an element of mystery in this novel, although it’s not a “mystery” per se- is when you see the ending coming a mile away. This ending wasn’t exactly a suprise, but there were enough revelations at every stage of the game to continually push the reader to gain more and deeper understanding of each character. A series of tiny epiphanies don’t erase the harm that’s done during the course of the story, but they do open windows into deeper understanding and keep the relationship between good guys and bad guys sufficiently complex and intense to keep you on your toes.
This story had just enough grit and darkness to be taken seriously, and enough light moments to keep me involved in the story and hopeful for a happy ending. The characters are bizarrely believable, considering their histories and abilities, and those of us who live in a world that expects too much perfection from us every day will understand Allison Darling entirely too well. Art again imitates life in that Allison is also a mom whose family are by turns pulled apart and pushed together by factors outside their control. By the end, you’ll be cheering for Allison and her family to triumph- together, as a team- over their foes. This book is light enough for the beach and has enough meat on its bones to carry you through a rainy day.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
KATIE SCHICKEL graduated from Georgetown University with a degree in English. A former newspaper reporter, Schickel’s writing career and passion for scuba diving has taken her to Pensacola and Key West, FL, as well as throughout the Caribbean, Central America and the Pacific. She has been a freelancer for several scuba magazines, including Scuba Times Magazine and Outside Magazine. Schickel lives in Massachusetts where she spends her time writing and with family. When she’s not doing that, Schickel also surfs the chilly waters of New England, even in the winter. HOUSEWITCH is her first novel.