Sundial
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Sundial

Catriona Ward

You can’t escape the desert. You can’t escape Sundial.


Rob fears for her daughters. For Callie, who collects tiny bones and whispers to imaginary friends. For Annie, because she fears what Callie might do to her. Rob sees a darkness in Callie, one that reminds her of the family she left behind. She decides to take Callie back to her childhood home, to Sundial, deep in the Mojave Desert. And there she will have to make a terrible choice.

Callie is afraid of her mother. Rob has begun to look at her strangely. To tell her secrets about her past that both disturb and excite her. And Callie is beginning to wonder if only one of them will leave Sundial alive…

From the bestselling author of The Last House on Needless Street comes a stunning thriller exploring the toxicity of the mother-daughter bond, and the power of the past to twist the present.

Review

Catriona Ward’s latest psychological horror, Sundial, is a harrowing, grisly tale of the bonds between mother and daughter, and how the buried secrets of the past are reflected in our children. The book employs dual perspectives; on one side we meet mother-of-two Rob, who worries about her eldest daughter Callie’s penchant for playing with animal bones and whispering to imaginary friends. When Callie’s fascination with death threatens her younger sister’s safety, Rob takes Callie to her childhood home, to Sundial, where she hopes to exorcise the demons she believes are lingering in her daughter’s heart. But through Callie’s eyes, we see that Rob isn’t entirely above suspicion herself; she looks at Callie with a strangeness in her eyes, a trembling violence in her hands, and speaks of family secrets that haunt and corrupt Sundial. Both narrators fear that only one of them will come out of this alive.

Sundial brings forth from the shadows questions that could gnaw away at a parent: is my child a good person? Will my child reflect the darkness in me? I may love my child, but do I like them? Ward questions if there are limits to maternal love, or if a child is always worth loving and protecting no matter what monstrous deeds they commit. Be warned, Ward does not shy away from visceral descriptions of animal cruelty, particularly towards dogs, and reading this book feels like watching a car accident: your heart is gripped by another’s tragedy, and although you shouldn’t watch, you can’t help but be filled with the morbid curiosity to learn more.

After the success of Ward’s previous horror-thriller, The Last House on Needless Street, readers should expect to be unsettled. This is a truly perverse, gory tale filled with deeply disturbing twists that test family loyalties and blur the lines of morality, causing us to ask ourselves how much can we allow love to justify cruelty?


Aurelia Orr is a bookseller at Readings Kids.

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