The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor
Orbit, hb, £18.99
Reviewed by Sarah Deeming
In Craig’s home, there is a faceless old woman who does little things for him, like burn his shoes to save him from a bad date, or send inappropriate text messages to women she’s worried might come in between him and his partner, or transfer money from a neighbour to pay off Craig’s debt. While she believes she is helping him, she also knows she is driving him insane.
This is a strange book, told in blocks from 1792 to 2020. The distinction between the past and the present is clear both with the use of the appropriate tenses and dates at the start of each chapter. I appreciate these sorts of things because they are reader friendly. I never struggled to work out where I was.
But I did question where I was. The front cover says this is A Welcome To Night Vale Novel but the majority of the story is set in everywhere by Night Vale as we learn how this faceless old lady has ended up in Craig’s house. What little we did see of Night Vale intrigued me, I would certainly read more of this series, and, having not read any of the other stories, I didn’t feel lost in events. Both in the way it was written and the pace of the story, it was a good book.
Any issues I had were of a personal nature. I didn’t connect with the main character in any meaningful way that meant I wanted to keep reading to see what happened to her. Instead, I kept reading because the antagonist was hinted at quite early on, and I wanted to know I was right. In fact, the manner of the hint was so heavy handed compared to the rest of the book which has some emotive descriptions that built the main character’s world perfectly, that I do question whether that was the intent.
However, those points didn’t take away from my enjoyment of The Faceless Old Woman. While I identified the antagonist early on, there were some questions that weren’t answered until late on, like the continual appearance of a crying old man at certain points during the novel.
This book should come with a warning. It is very sinister and disturbing, and sad. There are no winners and the implications of the events are felt throughout generations who have no idea what happened. It will stay with me for a while and so I recommend you read it too so we can share the disturbed sensation together.