Book recommendation: Second Child, by John Saul

Yes, that’s right; I have another John Saul recommendation for you. And, yes, this is another of his older books. But, to be fair, it’s been a while since I posted a recommendation for one of his books. I feel like enough time has gone by that I can bring you another one.

And I have to say, I think Second Child may be one of my favourite Saul novels.

Every summer, thirteen-year-old Melissa and her parents move out to their home in Secret Cove. Melissa, however, would prefer to stay in New York; her father has to spend much of the week there, anyway, and her mother… well, Melissa doesn’t have the best relationship with her mother. But this year, Melissa’s half-sister will be moving in with them. Maybe Teri can help keep Melissa’s mother’s anger at bay; and maybe she can be a friend to Melissa in a town where most of the kids avoid her.

But things don’t go quite as well as Melissa planned. And soon, she finds herself dealing with a horror she never could have imagined.

I had some very strong, very complicated feelings while reading Second Child. I started out curious: Which of the characters would turn out to commit the evil acts the novel’s summary hints at? Would it be the character I found myself wanting to root for, or the one I couldn’t help but be suspicious of?

As I kept reading, that curiosity slowly turned to dread. There was a part of me that didn’t want to keep reading; there was no way this novel could end well for my favourite character. I sensed humiliation, pain, and death all coming–and I didn’t want to face it.

But, at the same time, I couldn’t put the novel down. I needed to know what happened. Even if everything went horribly, horribly wrong, I needed to read it.

It’s not often that much dread can easily mix with the total inability to stop reading. The combination had me feeling tense, anxious, and angry all at once.

And I have to say, I absolutely loved that.

So, the reason I recommend this novel? Because it’s one of the few that I feel really and truly keeps you on the edge of your seat.

Goodreads summary

Secret Cove. Ruggedly beautiful and remote, bordered by dark woods and deserted beaches, this postcard-perfect village harbors the mansions of the wealthy—families who have summered in splendid seclusion at Secret Cove for generations. Here, one hundred years ago, on the night of the annual August Moon Ball, a shy and lovely servant girl committed a single, unspeakable act of violence—an act so shocking its legacy lives still.

And now, long after the horror of that night has faded to a tale whispered by children around summer camp fires, an unholy terror is about to be reborn.

Now, one family is about to feel the icy hand of supernatural fear—as Melissa Holloway, shy and troubled and just thirteen years old, comes to know the blood-drenched secret that waits behind a locked attic door… For in the dead of night a Secret Cove sleeps unaware, a soul-chilling presence slowly begins to enact a terrifying vengeance.

Second Child: It is unspeakable evil merely Melissa’s nightmares made horrifyingly real? Is it the manifestation of deadly fury risen from the grave? Or is the heart-stopping horror soon to be unleased in Secret Cove something even more insidious–something unimaginably evil…and alive?

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