Book Review: Cackle by Rachel Harrison

Title: Cackle
Author: Rachel Harrison
Publisher: Berkley
Publication date: October 5, 2021
Length: 304 pages
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

All her life, Annie has played it nice and safe. After being unceremoniously dumped by her longtime boyfriend, Annie seeks a fresh start. She accepts a teaching position that moves her from Manhattan to a small village upstate. She’s stunned by how perfect and picturesque the town is. The people are all friendly and warm. Her new apartment is dreamy too, minus the oddly persistent spider infestation.

Then Annie meets Sophie. Beautiful, charming, magnetic Sophie, who takes a special interest in Annie, who wants to be her friend. More importantly, she wants Annie to stop apologizing and start living for herself. That’s how Sophie lives. Annie can’t help but gravitate toward the self-possessed Sophie, wanting to spend more and more time with her, despite the fact that the rest of the townsfolk seem…a little afraid of her. And like, okay. There are some things. Sophie’s appearance is uncanny and ageless, her mansion in the middle of the woods feels a little unearthly, and she does seem to wield a certain power…but she couldn’t be…could she?

Feeling witchy? Cackle is a perfect choice for the spooky month of October!

As Cackle opens, Annie’s life, to be blunt, sucks. Her long-term boyfriend has informed her that their relationship is more friendship than romance — but since good apartments are hard to come by, they keep living together, taking turns on the futon, for five more months. No wonder Annie is depressed and in a rut, especially since Josh was so much the center of her world for all these years that she never developed a friend circle and is now alone and miserable.

Annie finally makes a change in her life, and it’s a big one: She’s moves from Manhattan to the small town of Rowan in upstate New York, where she accepts a teaching job at a local high school and moves into a rented apartment. She doesn’t quite know how to connect with locals and worries that she’s made a terrible mistake… until she meets Sophie.

Sophie is beautiful and kind, immediately taking an interest in helping Annie settle in and offering her unconditional friendship. But why do the townspeople all seem so deferential and even afraid when it comes to Sophie? Sophie takes Annie to her mansion in the woods, showers her with gifts, and offers her a refuge in which to be pampered and recenter her life. And Annie loves it — but is Sophie too good to be true?

Cackle is a fun romp, with some scary/slightly gross moments in the mix, but it stays mostly on the lighter side. There’s a lot of pleasure to be found in Annie’s enjoyment of Sophie’s friendship, even while red flags are popping up everywhere. (There’s also super adorable Ralph, and I’m not going to say any more about him! You need to meet him for yourself.) While it seems clear from the start that Sophie has secrets, Annie remains oblivious for quite a while, and even when she begins to sort it all out, her responses aren’t entirely what I would have expected.

This is an enjoyable pre-Halloween read — not too heavy or serious, some good character development and support of not bowing to others’ opinions, finding one’s true self, and a celebration of friendship. Plus… witches!!


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Top Ten Tuesday: Ten (OK, actually eleven) Witchy Books for Halloween!

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is a Halloween Freebie. I’m keeping it simple and featuring books about witches — mostly books I’ve read, plus three from my TBR list that I’m really looking forward to.

  1. The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow — a 2020 favorite! (review)
  2. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
  3. Storm Cursed by Patricia Briggs — part of the ongoing Mercy Thompson series, but this one has some very bad witches in it! (review)
  4. The Ghost Tree by Christina Henry — despite the title, this book has much more to do with witches than ghosts. Loved it. (review)
  5. A Witch in Time by Constance Sayers — another 2020 favorite (review)
  6. The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare — not actual witches, but about witch hunts in the Colonial era. I think every kid who grew up in Connecticut (like me!) read this book at some point. (review)
  7. Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor (review)
  8. The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe
  9. Hour of the Witch by Chris Bohjalian — new release coming in April 2021
  10. The Factory Witches of Lowell by C. S. Malerich — coming in November 2020, and I think it sounds amazing.
  11. The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson — haven’t read yet, but I intend to!

Yes, that actually makes eleven books. I realized I had an extra, but couldn’t decide which one to drop!

What are your favorite witchy books?

I’d love to hear about your Halloween topic, so please share your TTT link!