Spiegel & Grau
June 13, 2017
Let me tell you what it can be like being a new mother. You go home from the hospital, with a bundle of flyers, already worn down to the bone. "You will get frustrated," the flyers warn. "BUT DO NOT SHAKE THE BABY". You heard a long time ago that if you don't sleep for a week, you'll die, but you discover this is not true. You don't die, even though you don't sleep, but weird thoughts start to creep through your head. You know the baby would fit in the oven, you start to believe that if you don't stare at the baby all night she might die. Delirium becomes your resting state. Arguments flare up, because everyone's so tired that patience ran out months ago. And there's the ever present terror that some small error will end in catastrophe, and if anything went wrong it would destroy you.
This book captures that feeling all too believably. "The Changeling" falls into the uncanny territory of horror. What's real? What's imagined? Is it magic? Or postpartum depression? Maybe everyone's just so damned tired that they've lost it? The tale goes beyond the snapping point, into territories I didn't venture, but dreaded during those terrified wakeful nights.
The novel blends the realities of modern parenting: cell phones and Facebook posts, with children's books and folk tales. There are trolls and trolls. You could call it a fairy tale, but if it is, it's a dark one.
This book is eerie, but compulsively readable. It will be on my mind for a long time.