I admit, I had seen a ghost or two.
I’m delighted to be participating in the blog tour celebrating The Uninvited, a new novel by Cat Winters. This is the author’s first book for adults, following two successful YA releases. Thank you, TLC Book Tours, for inviting me to participate!
Twenty-five-year-old Ivy Rowan rises from her sickbed after being struck by the great influenza epidemic of 1918, only to discover that the world has been torn apart in just a few short days.
But Ivy’s lifelong gift—or curse—remains. She sees the uninvited ones—ghosts of loved ones who appear to her, unasked for and unwelcomed, for they always herald impending death. On that October evening in 1918, Ivy sees the spirit of her grandmother, rocking in her mother’s chair. An hour later, she learns her younger brother and father have killed a young German out of retaliation for the death in the Great War of Ivy’s other brother, Billy.
Horrified, she leaves home and soon realizes that the flu has caused utter panic and the rules governing society have broken down. Ivy is drawn into this new world of jazz, passion, and freedom, where people live for today, because they could be stricken by nightfall. She even enters into a relationship with the murdered German man’s brother, Daniel Schendel. But as her “uninvited guests” begin to appear to her more often, she knows her life will be torn apart once again, and terrifying secrets will unfold.
The Uninvited crept up on me, little by little, until I was completely hooked. I wouldn’t say it has a slow start, because there’s certainly nothing about the pace to criticize. What I mean, really, is that it’s subtle and quiet to start with. The author sets the story in small-town Illinois, which should give the book a quaint, peaceful feel — except for the particular place in history chosen as the setting.
It’s October of 1918. Anti-German (and more generally, anti-foreigner) sentiment couldn’t be higher. The American Protection League is busy harassing outsiders into isolation and flight, spying on “good” Americans to make sure they’re behaving correctly, and inciting anger and violence in formerly friendly neighbors. While families lose husbands and sons to the Great War overseas, the horrible and deadly influenza pandemic strikes without warning, and the death toll mounts unbelievably quickly.
Ivy, the main character, is a young woman raised on a farm, frightened by her alcoholic, violent father, in mourning for her brother Billy, killed in the war. Hatred and fear are the overriding emotions all around her, but once she flees her family home to start fresh in town, she encounters friendship, passion, and love that she never expected. Ivy is an unusual character, really well defined, who seeks independence when she realizes how intolerable her family has become. She sets out to make a difference any way she can, and ends up driving an ambulance on a rogue mission to rescue the poor and unwanted flu victims who aren’t white or American enough to merit treatment in the one good hospital in town.
I loved Ivy’s backbone. She goes where she needs to go, stands up to creepy APL members, and chooses connection and physical intimacy despite all the reasons to stay away. She’s drawn to the wild jazz music she hears every night, which represents freedom and a new kind of society to her.
From setting the stage at the beginning, the author builds the tension and stakes as the story progresses. And then, bam! By about 3/4 of the way through the book, I suddenly found myself gobbling up every word, unable to look away.
Something happens along the way which changes the meaning of everything that came earlier, but I won’t say more than that. It’s enough to say that this is one of those books that’ll make you want to start all over again from the beginning once you’ve read it, to see what you missed the first time around and look at events from a different angle.
The Uninvited is a curious mix of historical fiction and ghost story, and the combination really works! The setting and time could not be more dramatic, and I loved the cast of characters, including memorable supporting characters (such as the frightened Red Cross volunteers and Ivy’s ex-suitor) in addition to Ivy herself and her sexy but aloof love interest Daniel.
Absolutely recommended for anyone with an interest in the time period, as well as anyone who enjoys well-developed characters and a plot that informs, moves, and surprises the reader. Okay, basically, recommended for everyone! I plan to read Cat Winters’s YA books as soon as I can, and I do hope she’ll continue writing more for adults as well.
Find out more:
About the Author:
Cat Winters’s debut novel, In the Shadow of Blackbirds, was released to widespread critical acclaim. The novel has been named a finalist for the 2014 Morris Award, a School Library Journal Best Book of 2013, and a Booklist 2013 Top 10 Horror Fiction for Youth. Winters lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband and two children.
Title: The Uninvited
Author: Cat Winters
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Publication date: August 11, 2015
Length: 368 pages
Genre: Adult fiction
Source: Review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours
For further information, stop by TLC Book Tours to view other blog tour hosts.