by Sara Flannery Murphy
• Hardcover: 368 pages
• Publisher: Harper (February 7, 2017)
“I was totally immersed in the strange, beautiful world of Sara Flannery Murphy’s The Possessions. A gripping, chilling read that’s part love story, part mystery, and completely original, it’s sensuous, scary, and utterly thrilling. I’ve never read anything quite like it.” —Anton DiSclafani, author of The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls
“An enthralling meditation on grief and memory cloaked in suspenseful psychodrama, The Possessions dissolves the boundaries of past and present and artfully, heartbreakingly maps the consequences of transgressive desire. Sara Flannery Murphy has written the best kind of ghost story.” —Robin Wasserman, author of Girls on Fire
In this electrifying literary debut, a young woman who channels the dead for a living crosses a dangerous line when she falls in love with one of her clients, whose wife died under mysterious circumstances.
In an unnamed city, Eurydice works for the Elysian Society, a private service that allows grieving clients to reconnect with lost loved ones. She and her fellow workers, known as “bodies”, wear the discarded belongings of the dead and swallow pills called lotuses to summon their spirits—numbing their own minds and losing themselves in the process. Edie has been a body at the Elysian Society for five years, an unusual record. Her success is the result of careful detachment: she seeks refuge in the lotuses’ anesthetic effects and distances herself from making personal connections with her clients.
But when Edie channels Sylvia, the dead wife of recent widower Patrick Braddock, she becomes obsessed with the glamorous couple. Despite the murky circumstances surrounding Sylvia’s drowning, Edie breaks her own rules and pursues Patrick, moving deeper into his life and summoning Sylvia outside the Elysian Society’s walls.
After years of hiding beneath the lotuses’ dulling effect, Edie discovers that the lines between her own desires and those of Sylvia have begun to blur, and takes increasing risks to keep Patrick within her grasp. Suddenly, she finds her quiet life unraveling as she grapples not only with Sylvia’s growing influence and the questions surrounding her death, but with her own long-buried secrets.
A tale of desire and obsession, deceit and dark secrets that defies easy categorization, The Possessions is a seductive, absorbing page-turner that builds to a shattering, unforgettable conclusion.
The sensation is as unsurprising now as drawing a breath or falling asleep. A numbness spreads across the body, the blood growing sluggish. The eyelids turn weighted. The body is rearranging itself to make room, my consciousness rising and scattering like wary birds sensing an unknown presence.
The sensation of Sylvia’s presence is there and gone, like catching a shadowy movement from the corner of my eye. I’m brushing my teeth. I blink, and my reflection is a stranger’s; blink again and I’m myself.
We stare at each other. My gaze is twice as dense as his. It’s the unevenness of a roomful of people staring at one subject. He must sense it too; he breaks eye contact to look at the floor.
We met when we were both roughened and torn, our hearts tattered enough to snag on each other’s.
Edie is employed as a conduit or “body” for channeling the dead for those seeking closure as they mourn their lost loved ones. There are strict rules at the Elysian Society, the agency where she worked, rules Edie had never considered breaking, until recently. The plot was unique, ingenious, and perfectly crafted. The writing was exquisitely detailed, richly textured, vibrantly alluring, and fiercely enthralling. Written from a first person POV, the narrative was smoothly polished and intensely compelling. I was transported and firmly implanted in Edie’s body, or maybe I was channeling her? I believed I even felt her woozy sensations from the effects of her trance-inducing medication. Ms. Murphy has deftly produced not one but three gripping mysteries in a book packed with intriguing characters and a smartly written and pulsating storyline. I was provided with a review copy of this mesmerizing tale by TLC Book Tours and HarperCollins.
About Sara Flannery Murphy
Sara Flannery Murphy grew up in Arkansas, where she divided her time between Little Rock and Eureka Springs, a small artists’ community in the Ozark Mountains. She received her MFA in creative writing at Washington University in St. Louis and studied library science in British Columbia. She lives in Oklahoma with her husband and son. The Possessions is her first novel.