Book Review: Revelator by Daryl Gregory

Synopsis

From the acclaimed author of Spoonbenders comes the gripping tale of a family’s mysterious religion, and the daughter who turns her back on their god.

In 1933, nine-year-old Stella is left in the care of her grandmother, Motty, in the backwoods of Tennessee. These remote hills of the Smoky Mountains are home to dangerous secrets, and soon after she arrives, Stella wanders into a dark cavern where she encounters the family’s personal god, an entity known as the Ghostdaddy.

Years later, after a tragic incident that caused her to flee, Stella–now a professional bootlegger–returns for Motty’s funeral, and to check on the mysterious ten-year-old girl named Sunny that Motty adopted. Sunny appears innocent enough, but she is more powerful than Stella could imagine–and she’s a direct link to Stella’s buried past and her family’s destructive faith.

Haunting and wholly engrossing, summoning mesmerizing voices and giving shape to the dark, Revelator is a southern gothic tale for the ages.


Review

I read this book with the Mystery Book Club on Instagram. Many were commenting “What have I just read?” Now that I have finished I know exactly what they mean. Trust me when I tell you they mean this in a good way, the very best of ways. Revelator is a genre bending mix of Appalachian noir and fantasy. Set in the 1930s and 40s, the wonder and beauty of Cades Cove and its early settlers come alive. In this isolated environment faith mixes with fear as we wade through family secrets and religious fanaticism.

Stella is our revelator and it is her job to commune with the Ghostdaddy and carry its message. But even she is not sure of what Ghostdaddy is our what Ghostdaddy truly wants. She fears that her family in their blind zeal to please their god may be putting themselves in danger. As she gets older she realizes the power of the Word lies not just in what is written but in who gets to hear the full story.

Revelator was not as scary as I thought it would be. Thank God for small wonders. I am not sure if I would classify it as horror but Ghostdaddy certainly was a weird creature that I wouldn’t want to walk across even in the light of day. I appreciated the historical aspects of Cades Cove and that Gregory looked at gender politics and power dynamics in the church.

All in all, Revelator was a fully absorbing tale. Besides Stella, I absolutely loved Alfonse and Abby’s characters.

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