Book Review: THE BARTER by by Siobhan Adcock

Publisher: Dutton Adult
Released: September 4, 2014
Source: Review copy through Penguin’s First to Read Program
Rating: ★★

A heart-stopping tale as provocative as is suspenseful, about two conflicted women, separated by one hundred years, and bound by an unthinkable sacrifice.

The Barter is a ghost story and a love story, a riveting emotional tale that also explores motherhood and work and feminism. Set in Texas, in present day, and at the turn of the twentieth century, the novel follows two young mothers at the turning point of their lives.

Bridget has given up her career as an attorney to raise her daughter, joining a cadre of stay-at-home mothers seeking fulfillment in a quiet suburb. But for Bridget, some crucial part of the exchange is absent: Something she loves and needs. And now a terrifying presence has entered her home; only nobody but Bridget can feel it.

On a farm in 1902, a young city bride takes a farmer husband. The marriage bed will become both crucible and anvil as Rebecca first allows, then negates, the powerful erotic connection between them. She turns her back on John to give all her love to their child. Much will occur in this cold house, none of it good.

As Siobhan Adcock crosscuts these stories with mounting tension, each woman arrives at a terrible ordeal of her own making, tinged with love and fear and dread. What will they sacrifice to save their families—and themselves? Readers will slow down to enjoy the gorgeous language, then speed up to see what happens next in a plot that thrums with the weight of decision—and its explosive consequences.

THE BARTER was a book that had my favorite elements – dual time periods and a ghostly presence – but in the end just didn’t work for me. The pacing was slow and the characters just didn’t engage me. The story is about two women, Rebecca living in the early 20th century, and Bridget from present-day. Both women are dealing with the struggles of motherhood, unhappy marriages, loss of identity, and what society expects from them.

Bridget gave up her job as a successful attorney to stay home with her daughter, a decision that obviously isn’t working for her. Then suddenly one night a ghost appears in her house, one that only she and her daughter can see. The ghost wants something, but can’t seem to get its message across. I had an idea about what the ghost represented, but nothing was clearly spelled out, and the ending was just – confusing. Other than both women being unhappy with their lot in life, I couldn’t see anything specific that connected them.

Unfortunately, I have to disagree with the blurb describing this book as heart-stopping and suspenseful. I probably would have enjoyed it more if I had understood the two women’s connection and the ghost had been spookier.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.