A small town in rural America surrounded by fields of sunflowers sounds like an idyllic place to live. But this small town holds a dark secret. Men live pretty good lives in Bishop but women don’t fare as well. The list of dead and missing women stretches back all the way to the founding of the town when the first traveler stopped to build a life in Bishop. He made a pact with the land, sealed with blood. Now the land is getting hungrier and more women are disappearing. A family of four young girls know that something is wrong. Can they figure out what’s happening and how to stop it before it’s too late? Or will they become just four more names in the long list of Bishop’s dead women? Find out in Andrea Hannah’s Where Darkness Blooms.
[Note: While I am reviewing this novel independently and honestly, it should be noted that it has been provided to me by Wednesday Books for the purpose of this review. Warning: My review of Where Darkness Blooms contains some spoilers!]
Barely keeping it together
At the edge of town is a run-down house where four teenage girls live alone. Delilah, Whitney, Jude, and Bo have been caring for themselves ever since their moms disappeared two years ago. The three women are best friends. They had been living and raising their daughters together ever since their respective husbands left them.
They don’t have a lot but they are happy. Until the day when they disappear without warning. Their daughters are adamant that their mothers would never just leave them. But in the absence of any sign of struggle, law enforcement believes that is the most likely scenario and stops looking for them. They become 3 more women swallowed up by Bishop.
The daughters try to keep things together. As the oldest, Delilah becomes the de facto mother and she does her best, but it’s not the same for any of them. They continue to go through the motions, attend school, and work but they aren’t really there anymore. Whitney tetters on the edge of depression and obsession since her girlfriend became one more woman dead under mysterious circumstances six months ago. Jude is in love with Delilah’s boyfriend and can’t move past him. Bo is angry all the time and gets into fistfights with the local boys. And Delilah is trying to hold it together but is losing her grip.
Tension grows as thick as the sunflowers in Where Darkness Blooms
Things in Bishop have always been strange but everything starts to really add up for the girls as Where Darkness Blooms unfolds. The city decides to put up a memorial to their mothers, two years after they disappeared, and it doesn’t sit well with any of the girls. They all have two main thoughts about the memorial: 1) why bother after two years, and 2) why a memorial for their mothers and not all the other women who have died or gone missing?
At the dedication for the memorial Whitney asks just that, in front of the whole town. Her answer comes from the memorial itself. It falls over on top of her and she is taken to the hospital by Delilah’s boyfriend and his brother, Caleb. The memorial is destroyed in the accident and in the wreckage both Jude and Bo find things that raise further questions about just what is happening in their town.
All four girls have their own thoughts and suspicions about what happened to their mothers. At first, they all try investigating on their own, but Bo soon calls them together and organizes a more strategic investigation. Helped by the sunflowers and hindered by the wind, the girls race to find out what or who is behind the dangers in Bishop before they too are added to the list of dead and missing Bishop women.
Suddenly sunflowers are creepy
Hannah manages to take the ordinary, mundane sunflower and make it feel completely terrifying. I can’t say that sunflowers are my favorite flower (I’ve always found them a little gaudy looking personally) but I’ve never felt uneasy around them either. Until now. I have to say that I’m glad there aren’t any fields of sunflowers where I live because I’m not sure I want to be driving past any anytime soon.
Part of what makes Where Darkness Blooms so creepy is how very isolated the town of Bishop is. No one ever comes to visit and people rarely leave. In fact, only men ever leave, and they never come back when they do.
There doesn’t seem to be any internet and even satellite TV signals seem patchy. There is just a small “downtown” consisting of a couple of blocks on one street, a few surrounding neighborhoods, the graveyard, and the clearing (a place teens go to drink and party). And the miles and miles of sunflower fields. The loneliness and isolation create an atmosphere where even cute puppies could become creepy, let alone the oppressive sunflowers and talkative wind.
Hard time connecting with Where Darkness Blooms
Even though Hannah nails the creepy atmosphere and has a pretty interesting premise for a scary story, I had a hard time connecting to the novel. My logical brain had no problem with blood-thirsty land that wanted tributes but it drew the line at four underage teenage girls just being left to live in a house alone. That no one helped them when their mothers disappeared or insisted upon an adult presence was just off to me.
I couldn’t figure out the timing of some things either. The girls were still in school, except Delilah, but that would put them rather young to be doing the things they were doing the night their mothers disappeared. It just felt like the past and present of the book didn’t tie in well together.
I also didn’t care for the ending. I had some very strong feelings about what the ending meant and I didn’t like it at all. Some people might call it a happy ending but for me, it wasn’t. The larger implications of what happened in the past due to the way the story ends didn’t sit well with me. And I think when the girls will eventually arrive at the same conclusions and go from elated to despondent very quickly when they do.
A probable horror fan hit, but otherwise a miss for me
Horror fans will probably appreciate Where Darkness Blooms. Hannah’s masterful creation of atmosphere and the classic cursed land story will go down well. But others might not care for this tale very much. Between the muddy timelines and the “Lord of the Flies” way the teens seem to run the town, it might be a bit much for some readers. Overall, a solid horror story with a few real-world kinks and a disappointing ending.
My Rating: 6/10
Where Darkness Blooms by Andrea Hannah is available now! Have you read the novel? Let us know on Twitter or in The Cosmic Circus Discord. And if you haven’t already, check out our review for The Book of Gothel!