CACKLE by Rachel Harrison.
Titan Books. p/b. £8.99.
Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins.
In New York, Annie Crane is celebrating (or commiserating) her 30th birthday with Nadia, a colleague she barely knows (and should have spent time getting to know) whilst in the midst of a breakup. Heartbroken Annie has decided to leave the big city and move upstate to Rowan where she hopes for a new start. This is hardly the birthday celebration she imagined – drinks with a near-stranger – and the night ends with pizza and a palm reader. Unfortunately for Annie, her reading is nowhere as encouraging as Nadia’s.
In Rowan, Annie strives to leave her ex-boyfriend, Sam, and all thoughts of palm readers and dark auras behind. She starts settling into her apartment, prepares her classroom, and then meets the enigmatic Sophie who offers ready friendship, a shoulder to cry on and fills a void in Annie’s life.
With this new friendship comes the new start Annie wanted but she cannot escape the cold feeling that haunts her nor the reflection in the mirror that she does not recognise. She begins to notice that the local people do not reciprocate her friend’s kindness and it is clear there is more to Sophie than meets the eye. Does the kind stranger really expect nothing in return for her generosity?
Cackle is a delightfully easy read that traces Annie’s journey from her old life to new and allows the reader to feel all of the trials, tribulations and hang-ups that she carries along the way. She is a very human narrator with all of her flaws and desperate hopes on display. A little naïve, perhaps, but that only adds to the joy of having Sophie’s character and abilities unveiled slowly as the story progresses.
The underlying mixture of a sense of adventure in Annie’s more daring side along with the drawing into danger that she cannot resist is just right and allow Annie’s longing and search for acceptance to feel very genuine on the page. The supernatural elements of the story provide a little spine-tingling along the way but are enhanced with humour. Mostly this book is about the strength of self and the exploration of one-sided relationships.