Title: Atonement, Tennessee
Author: Teagan Geneviene
Published: 21st December 2013
Genre: Urban Fantasy
If there is such a thing as your “standard novel” and I’m not sure there is, Atonement, Tennessee is definitely not it. Although some aspects of the story might seem familiar to readers (we have a newcomer to a small and seemingly fairly quirky town, a catalogue of slightly odd characters, hidden and dark stories behind perfect surfaces…), others definitely will not. Although we spend most of the time in Ralda’s head (her given name is Esmeralda and that plays quite an important part in the book), we also see things from the point of view of Lilith, her cat, and that allows us to gain more knowledge than Ralda has, but from a peculiar viewpoint that means we are observes and what we see is unfiltered by either reason or prejudice.
Other novel and original aspects are its mixing of the everyday and the magical/paranormal. There are dogs barking, cats sneaking out, moving companies that keep getting delayed, but also strange and eerie mirrors, a cemetery that is part of the property and hides many secrets, attractive but strangely bizarre men, unknown magical birds, and fairly unusual dreams.
Ralda is self-reflective and we not only see things from her point of view (for the most part) but her internal dialogue works as a narrator who accompanies us. But how reliable a narrator is she? The many everyday worries that surround her (will the cat get out of the house? Will she finally get her possessions back? How much will it cost to repair the house?) keep pulling her attention away from the many strange and fantastic things that are also happening. She doubts herself, but she’s shown as dealing well with other people’s problems and being highly effective. When it comes to herself, though, things are more complicated and she does not want to accept that she can be at the centre of unknown powers and events. It is not so much that she’s trying to misguide us; it is that she does not even want to allow herself to think about certain things (like what she might feel for the male characters).
Although something mysterious happens early in the book (that seems connected to one of the objects), this is by no means the main mystery. Why Ralda is there and who she is are at the heart of the book and by the end we might have our suspicions, but like the protagonist, we lack information to come to any conclusions. We have the answer to some of our questions, but can only speculate about others. But this leaves room for the sequel, on which I understand the author has begun work.
The writing style is engaging and accessible, there is enough description to fire the imagination without being overly detailed and doing all the work for the reader, and the chosen point of view offers fascinating psychological insights into the main character.
What did I love about the book? The setting, the fabulously strange house, the cemetery, Lilith, the sheriff (not as onedimensional as everybody thinks), the friendship between the four women, the locket, the bed, the dreams…It reminded me of Edgar Allan Poe but not as dark.
What didn’t I like? That there isn’t a second part to tell me more about the mysteries that are suggested but we don’t get to know enough of.
Who do I recommend it to? If you like spooky tales, old houses, mystery, cats, legends, magic and stories about women I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. Ah, let’s not forget unusual birds and cemeteries…Is there anybody not included?
I encourage the author to bring us part two very soon. We want to know more!
Here the book trailer, in case you want to get in the mood for the story.
Realistic Characterization: 3.5/5
Made Me Think: 5/5
Overall enjoyment: 5/5
Overall Rating: 5/5
Format & Pricing:
Olga Núñez Miret