A haunting piece set in two eras following the mysterious death of two girls generations apart, this paranormal thriller will have you questioning just how much power one specter can have.
Has a book ever followed you? You know that feeling when you’re in the book store, new or used, and you feel drawn to that one book in particular. You feel the need to touch it’s spine and feel your own spine shudder in response. The book’s very existence creates its own unique physical presence. The room seems to dim and you get dark tunnel vision. The Broken Girls by Simone St. James did that to me.
Hello Lovelies! I would like to do a different kind of review for y’all today. A very relaxed and honestly down to earth review of The Broken Girls and I’ll tell you why. I have been looking forward to this book’s release since I first heard about it and since I have been away for a while focusing on personal health, I want to be transparent and honest with my readers.
This book was great. It took me a while to get through it because I was struggling with the storyline. You know how you hype a book up in your head and then get something totally different while reading? That’s kind of what happened here.
Massive spoilers ahead…
I was expecting more of a paranormal book but what I got was a story that just happened to feature a ghost used to frighten the characters and give a sense of suspense to the plot. I would have loved to hear more about “Mary Hand, dead and buried under land.” I feel Mary’s ghost was highly underutilized in this book.
In The Broken Girls we go through two separate timelines in the 1950’s, and November/December of 2014. Fiona is our 2014 journalist who’s sister’s body was found on the grounds of Idlewild which was a boarding school for troubled girls in the 1900’s. This is where we find our second storyline. In the 1950’s we follow a group of four girls, Katie, CeCe, Roberta and Sonia, one of whom has the opportunity to escape the haunted halls of Idlewild.
Idlewild is haunted by Mary Hand whose family lived on the property before Idlewild was build. She had a child out of wedlock and embarrassed her family. Long story short she was buried with the child in the garden of what is now the boarding school’s ruins. Mary appears to various girls throughout the history of Idlewild and her lore is passed down the generations in the pages of the textbooks that never change.
“Saw Mary Hand through the window of 1G, Clayton Hall. She was walking away over the field. Wednesday August 7, 1941 Jenny Baird”
Mary continues to haunt the location decades after the young girls are gone. Our main character Fiona is introduced to her and this is when we find that Mary shows you memories that you fear most. For Fiona, it’s her sister’s dead body laying in the field of the property surrounded by flowers and teddy bears.
The story following the four girls in the 1950’s and Mary Hand could have easily been their own book and that was my thought the entire time. I didn’t understand why we were following these two storylines until we find out that one of the 1950’s girls was murdered. We find her body while Idlewild is being restored and our trusty journalist, Fiona, is first on the scene. She’s there covering the renovation of the decaying building, hunting down truths on her sister’s murder and Idlewild’s new, mysteriously anonymous benefactor.
Our two stories don’t fully come together until the last few pages but when they do, our poor Mary Hand is literally left standing on the sidelines. When all of the girls come together again in the final pages, they find that Mary’s body really has been buried under land in the garden on the property like previously rumored.
They dig up her body and sure enough Mary is found with her baby in a wooden coffin. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is where our story ends. This book is great in all aspects except this one. I spent most of my time waiting for Mary to be the killer or for her to expose some secret truth, when in reality she was there to scare the girls a few times. I want justice for Mary!
Simone St. James does a wonderful job of blending these two timelines and keeps you hooked just wondering how they are connected until the very end, but she left poor Mary dangling from a loose thread. I can see how St. James could be using Mary as a metaphor for the troubled girls’ haunted pasts, but introducing her backstory and then giving her no voice seems frustrating.
Once the girls bury their long lost friend, they dig up Mary in order to rebury her respectfully. It’s easy to see that they are digging up their “past” in order to put it to rest but the way St. James introduces her really leaves the reader wanting more from the paranormal aspect. Especially since the book seems to be advertised as more of a paranormal read.
A few questions for Simone St. James…
What is Mary’s true purpose in this book?
If she really was just a metaphor then why was she constantly portrayed as a demon who haunted the girls of Idlewild and tortured the already hopeless hearts that lived there?
What does her baby represent and why is she important to the storyline?
I truly believe that the 1950’s girls could have had their own novel depicting each of their backstories, histories and personal demons (if you will), followed by The Broken Girls set 60 years later, where we find Fiona investigating the mysterious circumstances surrounding her own sister’s murder on the property. That’s when we begin to intertwine the two timelines and get into the mystery of what evil really lies on the Idlewild grounds.
Simone St. James really gives off a Castle Rock feel for the town surrounding Idlewild. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, Stephen King has created a new Hulu series with J.J. Abraham called Castle Rock and the theme seems to be ‘this town makes these people go crazy.’ Yet another aspect that St. James could have explored in a prequal, before leading into a second book following Sonia’s mysterious disappearance after a seemingly harmless weekend visit with family.