“It’s possible to feel the horror of something and to accept it all at the same time. How else could we cope with being alive?” (Ward 138).
Rob is desperate for a normal life, and on the surface she’s achieved it: a husband, two daughters, and a nice house in the suburbs she’s renovated to her liking. But she worries about her oldest daughter, twelve-year-old Callie who’s obsessed with true crime, talks to people that aren’t there, and collects the bones of small animals. When her younger, fragile daughter Annie is targeted by Callie, Rob can think of no better place to take Callie than her childhood home Sundial which lies deep in the Mojave Desert. Meanwhile, Callie’s worried about her mom. She’s been looking at her strangely, and while she likes Sundial she doesn’t know why her mom wants to bring only her along for the trip, and why she keeps talking about secrets. Rob and Callie take a journey to the past through memories, forcing themselves to confront the darkness in both of them in hopes they can find light in the future.
I’ve been excited to read this book for so long and am left disappointed and conflicted on how to rate this.
So much of Sundial was over the top, it truthfully felt like a Riverdale plotline at times. A BIG suspension of disbelief is needed for how these characters act as themselves and towards each other. Irving’s abuse and anger is almost on a supervillain level, and Rob and Callie’s voice are nearly identical, which isn’t great considering one is a woman in her mid-thirties and the other is a twelve-year-old girl. While Rob regales Callie and readers with her history growing up at Sundial, the “twists” that come aren’t so shocking as easily guessed at, and the revelations that do come are so out of this world I ended up being taken completely out of the story.
Also a note to reader’s who dislike reading about animal abuse, a lot of bad and sad things happen to many a good dog. None of it is too gruesomely described on page, but it will definitely turn some readers off.
A small thing that I did like: there are twins in this book, and I am a twin! While Rob and Jack are arguably creepy twins, which is a very annoying trope, they aren’t the creepiest twins I’ve ever read about, and for the most part I liked how their bond and love for each other was written. I also liked that they were fraternal twins of the same gender, just like me! But I was annoyed that they looked enough alike that the only thing to really tell them apart was their eye colour. This could have been used in a more traditional, predictable way that perhaps Ward was attempting but no “this twin is actually this twin” revelation actually happens
except for A LOT of talk about contact lenses that also goes nowhere. Fraternal twins exist that don’t look alike. To quote Jack, “Not all twins are identical, dumbass,” (Ward 118).
A mix of The Bad Seed and Baby Teeth, Sundial offers another story with creepy kids, less than stellar parents, and an attempt at breaking the cycle of abuse. But Ward’s book comes off as too many ideas slapped together in an attempt to make a story that’s terrifying and thought-provoking that ends up being neither.
Publication: March 1st 2022
Publisher: Tor Nightfire
Pages: 304 pages (Hardcover)
Genre: Fiction, Horror, Mystery, Thriller
My Rating: ⛤⛤.5
You can’t escape what’s in your blood…
All Rob wanted was a normal life. She almost got it, too: a husband, two kids, a nice house in the suburbs. But Rob fears for her oldest daughter, Callie, who collects tiny bones and whispers to imaginary friends. Rob sees a darkness in Callie, one that reminds her too much of the family she left behind.
She decides to take Callie back to her childhood home, to Sundial, deep in the Mojave Desert. And there she will have to make a terrible choice.
Callie is worried about her mother. Rob has begun to look at her strangely, and speaks of past secrets. And Callie fears that only one of them will leave Sundial alive…
The mother and daughter embark on a dark, desert journey to the past in the hopes of redeeming their future.