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Small Angels by Lauren Owen

Gothic fiction

Small Angels

by Lauren Owen

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Quick take

In this small village where even the trees have secrets, a wedding reunites old friends and awakens ghosts of the past.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, 400

    400+ pages

  • Illustrated icon, Supernatural


  • Illustrated icon, LGBTQ_themes

    LGBTQ+ themes

  • Illustrated icon, Wedding



As a teenager, Kate found a safe harbor from her parents’ constant fighting in the company of the four Gonne sisters, who lived with their strict grandparents next to Small Angels, a church on the edge of dense green woods. The first outsider to ever get close to the sisters, Kate eventually learned the family’s secret: The woods are home to a capricious, menacing ghost whom generations of Gonnes had been charged with stopping from venturing into the village itself. But as the sisters grew older, braver, and more independent, bucking against the family’s burden, the bulwark began to crack, culminating in a horrifying act of violence that drove a terrible wedge between the sisters and Kate.

Chloe has been planning her dream wedding for months. She has the dress, the flowers, and the perfect venue: Small Angels, a charming old church in the village where her fiancé, Sam, and his sister, Kate, grew up. But days before the ceremony, Chloe starts to hear unsettling stories about Small Angels—and worse, she begins to see, smell, and hear things that couldn’t possibly be real.

Now Kate is returning home for the first time in years, for Sam and Chloe’s wedding. But the woods are coming alive again, and Kate must reconnect with Lucia, the most troubled of the sisters and her first love, to protect Chloe, the village, and herself. An unforgettable novel about the memories that hold us back and those that show us the way forward—this is storytelling at its most magical. Enter Small Angels, if you dare.

Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of Small Angels.

Small Angels


Tell it to the trees. This was once high praise in the village below the woods. It was what you might say at the close of a lively tale—told at dusk in late December, with a good fire snapping at the coals.

Not bad. You always were a dab at a story. You should tell it to the trees, see what they make of it.

If the mood was right—if there was a clear moon and no call to retire early, maybe you’d go further:

Let’s do it, you’d say. Come on. Let’s go and tell them.

If your companions were willing, you’d take up your cloaks and hats, fetch a lantern and stumble outside into the dark. You’d go softly through the dreaming village and the moon-shadowed fields, up the hill to Mockbeggar Woods.

By the time you reached the trees you might have begun to regret your earlier enthusiasm. The woods were an imposing presence by night. Nobody knew how old Mockbeggar was, or how big. The outside had been mapped and measured, but once you were in there it seemed to stretch much farther—fern and nettle, oak and beech, green on green for miles. Some nights, it was said, you might find yourself walking amongst trees that had fallen centuries before.

Mockbeggar grew by itself, hundreds of years before people took to tree-planting in this part of the world, and yet it was said that human beings had played their small part in its cultivation. In a distant time (the story ran) people cleared trees from the edge of Mockbeggar to make space for themselves, a place to build and farm. They moved in and stayed awhile, and then they were gone—wandering or dead, no one could say for sure now. But they left their relics behind: smashed pots, lost coins, assorted bones. And decade by decade, root by root, the trees moved back and swallowed it all. The saplings grew tall on a diet of history.

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Why I love it

A few months back, my wife and I were taking a walk through a secluded patch of woods near our home. A rustling in the bushes, an odd shadow stretching across the ground, a strange bird cry . . . I’m not sure exactly what caused it, but an unsteadying feeling came over me and I found I needed to share. I began to tell my wife some of the details of the novel I’d been reading, about a haunted family, a mysterious presence in old woods, and vines that move when you aren’t looking and wrap around your neck. That book was Lauren Owen’s Small Angels.

My wife told me, “Perhaps you’ll tell me more about this book once we’re back at home? Maybe not in the middle of the woods?”

Small Angels is a novel that will stick with you, creeping along at the back of your mind long after you’ve finished. With prose that sings and a dark and twisting mystery that’s steadily revealed, Small Angels is certainly a page-turner. The novel itself has the same quality as those old ghost tales we felt compelled to tell each other late at night as children. Something about the story strikes an eerie chord inside us, and we find we need to share.

Which is to say, I’d love for you to read this book, too. Small Angels is a gripping story of heartache, about the bravery to love in the face of fear. And it’s a beautiful and unsteadying treasure.

Member ratings (10,787)

  • Brianna C.

    North Ogden, UT

    Wow. This book really surprised me. At first I was thinking it was like the movie “The Village” but as I read it just got so much deeper. I was sucked in and couldn’t stop. Heartbreaking and lovely.❤️

  • Bryn J.

    Washington, DC

    Wasn’t a favorite of the year but really enjoyed this one! Felt cozy and comfortable for a “ghost story” - probably a bit longer than needed to be, some of the writing a off, but overall lovely read????

  • Kathy A.

    Cobb, CA

    This is one of my favorite books of the year. And ohhh the forest… the magical, mysterious forest! That it could be so terrifying yet so alluring kept me flipping pages… couldn’t put it down. Witchy!

  • Paige O.

    Brighton, MA

    Mockbegger’s eerie ambiance entranced me from page one. The intertwining threads of this tale are woven together beautifully— Owen’s atmospheric writing gives readers a ghost story to be remembered.

  • Danielle E.

    Gilberts, IL

    This book was so spooky. I found myself thinking about it even when I wasn’t reading it. I couldn’t get it out of my head. The author did a great job of describing everything & keeping you interested.

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