The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Molly and Kip barely survived their family's flight from the famine in Ireland. Now, they have taken jobs at an old English manor house. But as their rickety fish cart trundles along, the local townspeople are less than forthcoming about the way to the Windsor's home. They murmur warnings about the sourwoods.
The once wealthy Windsor family has fallen on hard times and an undefined fever has stolen their health. The only thriving thing seems to be the ominous tree that has grown in the house. Roots wend their way through the wallpaper. Branches span the ceiling. And the green door on the upper level is always locked, except when Molly sees the members of the family stealing out of the room, guarding bundles in their arms.
Whatever is behind the door seems to be giving secret gifts. But Molly begins to wonder--what is it taking in return?
Auxier has created a wonderful and terrifying Gothic horror story in THE NIGHT GARDENER. It's Edgar Allan Poe for middle schoolers. The relationship between Molly and Kip is touching. Molly's talent as a storyteller is integral to the plot and the way she cares for the youngest Windsor is heartbreaking. But my favorite aspect of the story was the evocative setting. The Windor's manor can stand toe-to-creepy-toe with the best Gothic manors in literature.
While the story does not pull any punches on the horror aspects, it quietly asks some important questions. What is the difference between a story and a lie? And what if protecting someone from the truth brings them harm instead?
Run out and grab a copy of THE NIGHT GARDENER. But you may want to leave the light on while you sleep.
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