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Looking to escape New York City in the wake of the pandemic, Holly Sherwin and her partner, Nisa Macari, enjoy exploring charming “little towns long since colonized by self-styled artists and artisans.” Holly, once a promising playwright, is now teaching English at a private school but has recently won a grant to produce the witchy play that may just revive her career. When she stumbles upon a creepy old mansion on an isolated hill, she knows she’s found the perfect place to hole up with the small cast for two weeks of intensive rehearsals. Never mind that the owner is shady; never mind that the one neighbor threatens her with a knife as she drives by; never mind that the caretakers refuse to spend the night, ever, in the house—Holly knows it’s going to galvanize her cast into the performances of their lives. When they all gather for a run-through of the script, she can feel the magic, the electricity in the air. But maybe the house’s energy reflects more than the power of her words; there are also unexplained bloodstains on a tablecloth, an unearthly field of cold by the nursery, and mysterious voices at night. Not to mention the horrible black hares that keep popping up. Are they real or imaginary? Yes, and yes. While the novel doesn’t draw any kind of straight line between Jackson’s characters and Hand’s, other than some “echoing” voices on a recording, clearly this novel is shaped around Jackson’s legacy, not only in the setting, but also in the characters, specifically the relationship between Holly and Nisa. What she offers, then, is not merely retelling or update, but almost palimpsest.


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