Pretty often, I hear "uh where is your Southern accent?" when I tell people that I was born and raised in the South. (To that I usually respond, "you should hear me around my grandparents...that's when my accent turns into honey.") But I can assure you, thick accent or not, being from the South shaped who I am--how could it not? The setting of your entire life? Sure I've taken vacations and ventured outside of that few cluster of states, but there will never be anywhere else on this earth that is more home to me than here. When I was lucky enough to get an early copy of THE UNMAKING OF JUNE FARROW by Adrienne Young, I was instantly sucked into this beautiful, soul-wrenching story--especially because of the setting.
How could I not be? Those not raised here may not understand, but as much as this story is a romance, a fantasy, a mystery...it's also a love letter to the Blue Ridge Mountains--an area I have visited regularly for my entire life. From spending at least a week every summer of my childhood in Cherokee and Maggie Valley, to cabin weekends during my husband's kayaker days in Bryson City and the Nantahala Valley, and day trips to Helen, Georgia for pumpkin patches, orchard visits, and German food with my husband and nieces. I could feel the fictional town of Jasper, North Carolina in my soul. The nostalgia in Adrienne's depictions of the setting of this book very nearly brings tears to my eyes, even thinking about it now that I've finished the book. I can close my eyes and feel the mountain breeze tickling my skin as the sun peeks through the clouds. I can hear that breeze rustling between the trees that tower overhead. I can see, with perfect clarity, the smoky haze kissing the mountaintops of the Great Smoky Mountains--a small subset of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I could, in great detail, picture every single scene that June Farrow finds herself in in this book. Every one, without having to work to conjure the imagery. Mountain passes, rolling hills, gravel roads winding off into neverending farms that have been there over a hundred years? Be right back, I need to go book my next vacation right now.
All rambling about the perfect setting in THE UNMAKING OF JUNE FARROW aside, this book's characters and plot utterly captivated me. June is essentially a social outcast, with only a handful of people who actually know and understand her. I absolutely love that in a main character. Somehow, that makes them more realistic, like someone you may actually know. Add to that fact that June lives in a very small town makes it even more hard on her--the rumor mill overflows anywhere, but there's nothing like a Southern small town to truly beat a character down.
Unfortunately for June, she comes by this isolation honestly. You see, she's next in line for a curse that has plagued the women in her family for generations. The whole town was privy to her mother's descent into madness before she disappeared...reappeared pregnant...then disappeared again. Her baby, June, was found seven months later and given to her grandmother (Gran) to raise. Thirty four years after, June starts having the same visions as the previous women in her lineage, and she knows she's in trouble. Once the visions start, they don't stop until you're driven mad...or dead. Sometimes both. But a mysterious door keeps appearing to June...and she can't be certain that she won't eventually step through it.
There's so much to unpack in this book. It's a story of jumbled timelines, star-crossed lovers, a good-old-fashioned murder, and so much mystery that it will leave you on the edge of your seat until the very end. Adrienne is such a skilled writer that, when June faces an impossible choice, it's equally as impossible for the reader. You can't even have a side. You can't fathom her not choosing both options, even knowing she can't. Each choice is just as painful and wrong, and just as devastatingly beautiful and right, as the other. I'm still reeling, and I don't see the hollow pit in my stomach going away for a while.
If you're a fan of THE TEN THOUSAND DOORS OF JANUARY by Alix E. Harrow, you will love THE UNMAKING OF JUNE FARROW. It's a totally different story, but with that same atmospheric, warm, homey level of storytelling that only comes from the heart of a mastermind. Bravo, Adrienne. Bravo.
I won't recover from this story for many, many years.
Love and homemade biscuits in a cast iron skillet,
Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher and have voluntarily written this review with my honest feedback. If you purchase a copy using my Bookshop.org affiliate links above, I will receive a small commission and you'll support local indies! If you purchase a copy using my Amazon affiliate links above, I will receive a small commission which I will use to justify my literary addictions and to spoil my dogs (probably).