15 May 2023

Review: BURN OUR BODIES DOWN by Rory Power


Author: Rory Power
Series: N/A
Source: Audible Plus
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: July 7, 2020

Overall Rating:
Diversity Rating:

Representation: N/A

From the author of the New York Times bestseller Wilder Girls comes a new twisty thriller about a girl whose past has always been a mystery—until she decides to return to her mother’s hometown . . . where history has a tendency to repeat itself.

Ever since Margot was born, it’s been just her and her mother. No answers to Margot’s questions about what came before. No history to hold on to. No relative to speak of. Just the two of them, stuck in their run-down apartment, struggling to get along.

But that’s not enough for Margot. She wants family. She wants a past. And she just found the key she needs to get it: A photograph, pointing her to a town called Phalene. Pointing her home. Only, when Margot gets there, it’s not what she bargained for.

Margot’s mother left for a reason. But was it to hide her past? Or was it to protect Margot from what’s still there?

The only thing Margot knows for sure is there’s poison in their family tree, and their roots are dug so deeply into Phalene that now that she’s there, she might never escape.
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Content Warning:  Fire, Emotional abuse by a parent, including gaslighting. Familial and generational abuse, Nonconsensual pregnancy – note, no sexual assault or rape, Body horror, some gore, blood (lighter, relative to Wilder Girls), Death. On page character death. Child/infant death (takes place off page but implied violence – pages 301 and 308 in the print ARC), Off-page gun violence, Emesis (mention of vomiting).

This was a creepy read! I've been getting into a lot of ecological horror and dystopian fiction recently, so this fit in really nicely for that niche. I thought there was a lot of interesting power dynamics and things discussed in this novel, especially around single motherhood and socio-economics impacting lifestyles.

The writing itself is very good. There are no hiccups, no floundering about, and it flows smoothly. Rory Power gets to the point that she wants to make without beating around the bush. I really wanted to enjoy this story, however, and sometimes we want something so strongly that it slips away. I think it was mainly the pacing since a lot of the action was held off until the end.

While jumping around in the story and learning things slowly is an important factor in this book, and others like it, the novel took so long getting to the meat of the plot that I got slightly bored along the way. I didn't really connect with any characters except our lead because we didn't know their motivations and you're always so skeptical of everyone in these types of novels. 

Was the true horror and mystery of it all worth it when it finally arrived? Yes, it absolutely was. There is something sickening, twisted and disturbing about the history behind the horror of Margot's family. And for that, this book is well worth the read. That something so seemingly small would make me feel as uncomfortable as it did, speaks well for the way that the author unfolds it into the rest of the writing. But it arrived quite late, and developed far too fast for me to properly enjoy.

Burn Our Bodies Down has a Stephen King-esque vibe that hit me more than once, and I've noticed that other readers have felt the same. It's this nagging little thing at the back of your head that you notice here and there and can't let go of. I appreciated it, even if the whole of it fell a little more off the mark than I'd hoped.

There's merit to this novel, I just wish that more of those daunting details which pop up near the end and made me uneasy—while making everything charged and fraught with terrible possibility—had been delivered a little more starkly from the start.

Have you read this book? Are you going to pick this up?

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