Title: The Possessions by Sara Flannery Murphy
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Supernatural Elements
Length: 368 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss
In this electrifying literary debut, a young woman who channels the dead for a living crosses a dangerous line when she falls in love with one of her clients, whose wife died under mysterious circumstances.
In an unnamed city, Eurydice works for the Elysian Society, a private service that allows grieving clients to reconnect with lost loved ones. She and her fellow workers, known as “bodies”, wear the discarded belongings of the dead and swallow pills called lotuses to summon their spirits—numbing their own minds and losing themselves in the process. Edie has been a body at the Elysian Society for five years, an unusual record. Her success is the result of careful detachment: she seeks refuge in the lotuses’ anesthetic effects and distances herself from making personal connections with her clients.
But when Edie channels Sylvia, the dead wife of recent widower Patrick Braddock, she becomes obsessed with the glamorous couple. Despite the murky circumstances surrounding Sylvia’s drowning, Edie breaks her own rules and pursues Patrick, moving deeper into his life and summoning Sylvia outside the Elysian Society’s walls.
After years of hiding beneath the lotuses’ dulling effect, Edie discovers that the lines between her own desires and those of Sylvia have begun to blur, and takes increasing risks to keep Patrick within her grasp. Suddenly, she finds her quiet life unraveling as she grapples not only with Sylvia’s growing influence and the questions surrounding her death, but with her own long-buried secrets.
A tale of desire and obsession, deceit and dark secrets that defies easy categorization, The Possessions is a seductive, absorbing page-turner that builds to a shattering, unforgettable conclusion.
With a hint of the supernatural and an intriguing mystery, The Possessions by Sara Flannery Murphy is a fascinating novel where the grieving have the opportunity to channel their loved ones during visits to the Elysian Society. The bereaved are able to interact with their wives, husbands, children, friends, etc during their sessions with workers known as “bodies” who ingest a mysterious pill called a “lotus” to aid the process. The body is completely unaware of what transpires between the client and their loved one and despite the personal nature of their interactions, the body remains emotionally detached from the people using the Society’s services.
Eurydice “Edie” has been a body for much longer than most of the Elysian Society employees and like her co-workers, her life is shrouded in mystery. Many of the bodies supply a false name and few discuss anything personal about themselves. Edie has no trouble keeping an emotional distance from her clients but when she begins channeling Patrick Braddock’s wife, Sylvia, she is drawn to both him and his deceased wife. Discovering some of fellow employees work with some of their clients outside of the Society, Edie offers to channel Sylvia at Patrick’s home. Edie then begins taking risky chances in an effort to get as much information as she can to satisfy her curiosity about Patrick’s marriage and the circumstances of Sylvia’s death.
Edie is initially an emotionless and passionless narrator with very little in her life outside of her work. She has no outside interests nor she does she have any friends. She barely recognizes her co-workers and her interactions with them both on the job and in her time off are quite limited. Edie does not reflect on the circumstances that brought her to the Society so she appears to be nothing but a blank slate as she somewhat dispassionately channels the dead. However, seemingly incongruous details about Sylvia spark her curiosity and she is unexpectedly attracted to Patrick. As she becomes more deeply entrenched in Patrick’s life, the easier it is for Edie to channel Sylvia.
While Edie is crossing into dangerous territory with Patrick, she becomes unwittingly involved in a murder investigation. A young woman, dubbed by the press as “Hopeful Doe”, has recently been found murdered and someone connected to the case tries to use the Elysian Society to uncover her identity. Edie refuses to break the Society’s rules to help this person, but not everyone she works with understands the ramifications of channeling the spirit of a murder victim. Could this woman and her death have anything to do with the Elysian Society? The police certainly think so but Edie is not as convinced they are on the right track. Will an unexpected discovery change her mind? Will she do anything with information she unearths?
The Possessions by Sara Flannery Murphy has an imaginative storyline that is quite compelling. There are quite a few twists and turns as Edie’s obsession with Sylvia leads to a surprising relationship with Patrick. Poised to enter a new phase in her life, Edie is blindsided when someone uncovers the truth about her past. The revelations about Edie’s past are a bit underwhelming but overall, the novel is a refreshingly unique and captivating read. A very impressive debut that I immensely enjoyed and highly recommend.