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My Darling Girl by Jennifer McMahon

My Darling Girl

by Jennifer McMahon
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Quick take

During a fateful holiday season, eerie events begin to plague a Vermont family after their dying matriarch moves in.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Supernatural


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Creepy


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Drug&AlcoholUse

    Drug & alcohol use

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_MamaDrama

    Mama drama


Alison has never been a fan of Christmas. But with it right around the corner and her husband busily decorating their cozy Vermont home, she has no choice but to face it. Then she gets the call.

Mavis, Alison’s estranged mother, has been diagnosed with cancer and has only weeks to live. She wants to spend her remaining days with her daughter, son-in-law, and two granddaughters. But Alison grew up with her mother’s alcoholism and violent abuse and is reluctant to unearth these traumatic memories. Still, she eventually agrees to take in Mavis, hoping that she and her mother could finally heal and have the relationship she’s always dreamed of.

But when mysterious and otherworldly things start happening upon Mavis’s arrival, Alison begins to suspect her mother is not quite who she seems. And as the holiday festivities turn into a nightmare, she must confront just how far she is willing to go to protect her family.

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Content warning

This book contains scenes that mention suicide and child abuse.

Why I love it

When I look at the stories that frighten me most, what they have in common is the idea that the danger is coming from within, that the threat can’t be excised from a vital relationship—person or place—without also destroying it.

Author Jennifer McMahon plays on this fear, calling on her talent for crafting deliciously creepy atmosphere and a deepening sense of dread. Also, let me just say that if you’re like me (a.k.a. someone who loves horror, but is also a bit of a baby about reading it), the reason why McMahon is one of my favorite writers in the genre is because her books rely on ominous, emotional suspense over jump scares.

In her new novel, My Darling Girl, artist and children’s book illustrator Alison has more than run-of-the-mill mommy issues. Growing up, her mother, Mavis, was tempestuous, cold, cruel, and downright terrifying. Alison has the literal scars to prove it. Now, as an adult, Alison is proud to have outgrown her complicated past. She has her own functional family—two daughters and a supportive husband. But when Mavis is diagnosed with terminal cancer, Alison agrees to let her stay in their home. Has she just invited a malignant force in through the front door?

Jennifer McMahon takes an all-too-relatable idea—who hasn’t been driven a bit mad by their mother?—and deftly twists it into a tale of supernatural suspense and psychological thrills perfect for spooky season.

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