Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group | April 2017 | 304 pgs
Source: Edelweiss via Publisher (Advance Reading Copy)
Ashford, Vermont, 1975. There was once a Sandeskis family living in a sleepy town where they resided among abandoned mills and factories. Burntown, as they called this town, was their home and the Sandeskis were a happily family. Miles was a respected professor and during his free time, he would make mechanical animals and talking dolls for his young daughter, Eva. But his greatest invention was a plan which was passed on by Miles's father; a machine which would allow the living to communicate with the dead. Then came the Great Flood which Eva believed that was what killed her father and her brother, Errol. Eva and her mother, Lily, left their place and lived off the grid in a campsite on the river's edge with three mystical women who called themselves "fire eaters". These women knew how to breathe and eat fires through a herb they called "devil's snuff" and it also allowed them to see the future through their vision.
Eva, now known as "Necco" on the street, has been hiding away her life ever since her mother passed. According to Lily, her father was murdered by someone called "Snake Eyes" (or the Chicken Man) who wanted her father's invention. But Eva never believed what she was told and thought her mother was under depression and grief, until her mysterious death and Eva's boyfriend being murdered signified that there is indeed someone out there who is looking for her and wants her father's plan.
Along the way, Eva befriended two people; Theo, a high school senior who is scrambling to find her lost bag containing some drugs and money she owes a drugs dealer and Pru, a woman who works as a cafeteria lady at a Catholic School and runs errands for a circus as her other secret life. Pru knew Theo because she has been relying on her for her "vitamins" for some time but she hasn't heard from Theo for awhile and she needs her stuff to get her going. As the lives of these three different women intersect, they knew they have to rely on one another to get their life in order and most of all, to escape from "Snake Eyes" who has begun to close in on them.
Jennifer McMahon's stories never fail to surprise me; each of them is different and I knew I can always count on her for a good escapism read. Be it supernatural, fantasy or thriller, she has a knack for capturing your attention through the various worlds she created and soon you will find yourself engaged in her characterisations and premises, never mind if the subjects might seem bizarre or not. That is how Jennifer McMahon's books are and I like the different style and topics she imply in them. While I was fascinated by Burntown and the imagination of a great machine which could allow the living to communicate with the dead (it sounds creepy!), it was these notion - "one's hope to dream and dare to make them true" and "girl power" which spoke volumes to me. Eva, Theo and Pru have their flaws and I liked how they overcome their issues and daring to dream under difficult circumstances and of course, through the support of their friendship. Pru might be a secondary character but surprisingly, she was my favourite character among all. I liked that she finds her courage and dreams despite she thinks she is fat and worthless; and what she did in the end brought a smile to my face. Burntown may not be my favourite McMahon book but it was quite an inspiring read in my opinion.
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