A centuries-old witch peskily pops up around town.
We drop in on Hex in a scene of casual domestic tranquility.
Husband is coming home from work. Wife is preparing dinner. Children are in the other room. The only kink to this scene is the witch, standing in the corner with her eyes and mouth sewn shut.
She’s the town’s anchor. She’s been there for hundreds of years and won’t leave. And once people move to the town, they can’t leave, either, aside from brief furloughs.
In an effort to maintain the secret and go on with everyday life, the townspeople create elaborate ways to hide the witch in plain sight. It’s almost a comical effort, from kitchen towels over her head to grocery store displays. But they must not underestimate her evil. A word or look from her incites unspeakable violence and self-harm.
Heuvelt doesn’t leave the violence unspoken, though. The author graphically explains each self-destructive thought, each injury, each slight against fellow townspeople.
Living under those conditions can’t possibly be a permanent solution, and the stress takes a toll on the townspeople. Even the ones who seem the most well-adjusted have moments of startling misanthropy.
The casual sexualization and torture of Griselda is horrifying. People dole it as their means of communicating with her, and she takes it as if that’s all she’s worth.
As events progress, townspeople become increasingly black-hearted.
It’s no coincidence that the townâ€™s name is Black Spring. Spring symbolizes rebirth; new beginnings. The color black is associated with darkness, the unknown, evil. It’s an apt name; when people move to Black Spring, the lives they knew abruptly end and are reborn in fear and watchfulness.
Hex isn’t for the squeamish.
For that matter, even those with stomachs of steel may find the book queasy. The horror here is graphic. Not gory, but deeply disturbing.
The story is excellent. The details are, well, horrifying.