I was excited when the publicist reached out to me about this book, it sounded just creepy enough to not be terrifying and interesting enough because of its location.* Unfortunately, because of the problems with the location (see most of the next four paragraphs), it ultimately wasn’t an enjoyable read for me.
I will cut to the chase, the problem with reading books set where you live, no matter the time unless it’s so far in the past that it’s unrecognizable, is how much they get wrong or it feels like they get wrong. So many of these could have easily been fixed with a quick internet search of the MBTA map in Boston and just looking at a map in Boston. Boston is not a large city and its public transit is not that large or complex. I want to blame the copy editor, but really it’s the author’s fault.
From a train coming above ground at a point no train has been above ground since the 1800s to a street name being wrong (it’s Pinckney Street, not Pickney Street – you can’t explain this away with a fake street because the directions are so exact into what streets it runs into/parallel to) these are the things that were CONSTANTLY jolting me out of the book. The author and copy editor also missed a rather major oversight that has been talked about in Boston for decades, the lack of a connection going north to south on the public transit. There is NO train leaving South Station going north of the city. You have to go to NORTH station for that. There’s even an entire website dedicated to it: northsouthraillink.org (that could use its own copy editing).
There were also some major problems with the time it takes to walk places and/or ride the train places. Things that may or may not have happened (this is a psychological thriller after all) happened between stops that are barely the trains length distant from each other. And then when she got to South Boston (you know, where I live) she once again had issues with the spacing. She mentions a specific school, the Frederic W. Lincoln School, that’s a good 30 minute walk from the train station and then Pleasure Bay, another 15-20 minute walk from the school, and the timing is just off. I get Schilling wouldn’t write, and Kylie walked for 28.5 minutes wandered around the school for a bit and then walked for another 15.8 minutes, but you still have to get the feeling that it takes more than a flash to get somewhere. Add in that the Lincoln school was torn down in the 1950s and you’ve got even more of a timing problem. It’s where the South Boston public library branch is now according to this (Google Books link). But then again the photo in the book doesn’t match this photo on Flickr in the City of Boston Archives, but who knows maybe I’m just crazy.
Don’t get me wrong all the directions weren’t horrible, but when you commute the same routes an authors describing even if it is 20-30 years later (the time frame of this novel is a bit sketchy) you notice glaring errors/misconceptions that could be solved with a bit of digging and not just staring at a lifeless map. I mention the time frame because I struggled to place when the book occurred. It’s definitely post-1990, but where post-1990 I’m not sure. There were so many times where I was like why doesn’t she use her cell phone and when I finally was like oh there are no cell phones, a character randomly has one (there is exactly ONE cell phone in this book) and because of who the character is it felt REALLY odd that they would be the one to have a cell phone over anyone else. The fact MBTA tokens are mentions puts the book prior to 2006 (the last time they were sold) and the fact that they could smoke openly also tells me it’s pre-2004 when the public smoking regulations were increased in Boston.
Unfortunately, all of the above distracted from the story for me. There were great parts, like when the story went to Mt. Auburn cemetery. We happened to visit that while Tim’s family was in town and it was stunning! I highly recommend going out to visit it. The photo below is from the tower in the middle of the cemetery and you can see quite a few cities around Boston (in the far distance on the left).
This is one thing the author got right. It was an odd experience going to Mount Auburn Cemetery and when she talked about the addresses of the graves/family plots I remember distinctly how weird that was when we were there. It was a beautiful and peaceful place and is still an active burying-ground.
The story itself was sort of meh. I think it was just trying to get too much into one book. Where it took over 600 pages, I really felt like it could’ve been tightened up to closer to 400. It would’ve been a faster read and the flow would’ve been less sporadic. I enjoyed many of the things Schilling touched on, but they could’ve been explained in passing comments, especially with how wrong it felt she got the transit and layout of the city. I liked the main character, Kylie, but with the inevitable nature of the book I didn’t really become attached to anyone add in that a husband was missing from a funeral (or at least there was no mention of him – again because only one character has a cell phone!?) the realism of the novel was ruined for me.
Recommendation: Pass. I’m not sure I would go so far as to say just go watch Final Destination, but I know others have. Unless you’re super interested in the macabre and death rituals/stories from ancient times being brought into modern-day, other than that there are so many other books out there to read.
*I received a copy of Quietus from the publicist in return for my honest opinion. No goods or cash were received.
Opening Line: “The temperature in the White Mountains had dropped to negative five degrees with a windchill factor of minus forty.”
Closing Line: “‘Don’t be sad, Daddy,’ he said softly. ‘It’s okay to let Sarah come.'” (Whited out to avoid spoilers.)
Additional Quotes from Quietus
“Taking a deep breath, she tried to relax. She looked about the shadowy room and wondered whose life, if any, they were invading. As an interior designer she believed that buildings weren’t simply buildings, they were alive with the occupants who inhabited them; yet the room around her felt empty. It was a dusty, barren cottage with few furnishings and no decorations. There were no family photos or memorabilia, no remnants of a life left behind. She thought how strange it was to find the cabin deserted, yet the door unlocked.” (73)