Book 82: Yesternight



"I had tried to be a good girl. Oh, my Lord, after hopping into boys' beds, how I worked until my brain ached; how diligently I had played by the rules. I had stopped seeing men altogether, dressed in skirts that fell well past my knees, and wed myself to the 'female-appropriate' stratum of a male career."

Dates read: August 23-25, 2016

Rating: 3/10

Like most people, I hold some irrational beliefs. I've always had a soft spot for astrology (which I know is making my husband shake his head as he reads this), and I've made a visit or two to palm readers/psychics (neither of which told me anything that was particularly true). When you acknowledge your own irrational beliefs, it's hard to draw a line and say that yours are truer than any other. If the position of the stars in sky when I was born has an influence on my life, why couldn't ghosts be real? If my crooked little fingers are significant to who I am as a person, why couldn't someone have a guardian angel that watches over them?

At the beginning of Cat Winters' Yesternight, Alice Lind doesn't believe in anything irrational at all. A female psychologist in the 1920s, she's been shoved into the pink ghetto of school (and by extension, child) psychology rather than the doctoral research she desperately wants to conduct. She mostly administers intelligence tests, but has dealt with a few significantly disturbed children who were thought to be supernaturally influenced and revealed their troubles to be the product of entirely mundane phenomena. Her own childhood had a mysterious event of its own: at age four, she violently assaulted a group of neighborhood children. Her family refuses to provide her with more information regarding the incident, and it would seem it precipitated her interest "solving" the mystery behind the troubled children she encounters. When she steps off the train in Gordon Bay, Oregon, though, she soon finds herself confronted with her most perplexing case ever.

The seven year-old niece of the local school teacher, Janie O'Daire is a math prodigy, able to perform complex calculations in her head and working on college-level proofs. More than that, though, she's claimed since the time she could talk to be a young woman from Kansas named Violet, who drowned. With a set of acrimoniously divorced parents (which would have been very rare in that time period), it would seem she is ripe for the kind of emotional issues that might provide a prosaic explanation for her claims. But as Alice digs deeper, it becomes more and more probable that this might, in fact, be a genuine case of reincarnation. As she becomes convinced that Janie is telling the truth about her past life, Alice finds herself wondering if her violent outbursts might be the product of her own previous existence as a notorious murderess. 

So I know my policy around here with regard to spoilers has been to avoid them as much as possible without compromising my ability to fully discuss the book, which usually means no or minimal spoilers. While they don't ruin a book for me personally, I know other people feel differently and I do my best to respect that. However, the ending of this book had a substantial impact on how I ended up feeling about it, so if spoilers bother you, please close this window and come back when you've read it (or don't, I guess, I'm not the boss of you, but I hope you do!). 

It turns out that Janie is in fact a reincarnated spirit, and a visit to Kansas to see Violet's sister proves it. Alice has convinced herself that her childhood outburst, as well as an experience in college when she attacked a classmate who impregnated and then dismissed her, is the result of her own past life as the homicidal owner of an old hotel not too far away. No sooner has she convinced herself (and her new lover, Janie's father) that it's true, then Alice's sister reveals that the details Alice recalls about the murderess in question were actually told to her by that sister when she was very young. She's not expressing the violence of a vengeful presence inside her, she just has anger issues. Soon thereafter, Alice and her lover have a fight that becomes physical and he ends up dead. We're treated to an epilogue in which Alice is now raising her young son, the product of that relationship, and he's revealed to be...the reincarnation of his own father. Which, no. That's stupid and terrible. Until the end, the book hums along pretty well. It's nothing particularly special, but the plot moves quickly and it's entertaining to read (I'd have rated it at a 6). The end, though, just completely ruins it. It's awful. I'd had some quibbles with the book previously (Alice doesn't make much of an effort besides taking people at their word to determine whether Janie has ever experienced any abuse and the unlikelihood of an actual divorce at that point in history...it would have been much more realistic to have Janie's parents estranged than divorced) that were enough to keep me from finding it anything more than slightly above average, but that ending just torpedoed it. I would not recommend this book to anyone.

Tell me, blog friends...do you have any irrational beliefs?

One year ago, I was reading: The Song of Achilles

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