Housewitch
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Housewitch

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by Katie Schickel
     
 

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Former foster child, now a stay-at-home mom of three, Allison Darling desperately wants to fit in with the latte drinking and hundred-dollar-yoga-pants wearing moms that run Monrovia, her charming seaside town. Constantly feeling like an outsider, Allison dreams of more for her children.

When Allison's estranged mother passes away, her previously dormant special

Overview

Former foster child, now a stay-at-home mom of three, Allison Darling desperately wants to fit in with the latte drinking and hundred-dollar-yoga-pants wearing moms that run Monrovia, her charming seaside town. Constantly feeling like an outsider, Allison dreams of more for her children.

When Allison's estranged mother passes away, her previously dormant special talents emerge. Soon she is reunited with the family that abandoned her and learns of their heartbreaking legacy.

At the same time, the Glamour Girls, a soap-selling company run by the most popular women in Monrovia, recruits Allison to join them. They have a monopoly on everything in town, from bake sales to businesses deals. But once you're a Glamour Girl, there's no going back.

Suddenly caught between the rag-tag, hippie relatives she once so desperately wanted and the rich, charismatic Glamour Girls—Allison is unsure where she fits in. Could she come to trust the strange outcast family that abandoned her, or really hang with the most powerful, glamorous women in town?

For Allison, it's like high school all over again, except this time, the mean girls have more than killer manicures and the nobodies aren't sulking in the band hall. They're adults. They've got husbands, children, and livelihoods on the line. And they also happen to be witches.

Allison's decision to lend her powerful magical talents to either group will change Monrovia—and Allison—forever.

"Katie Schickel's debut entertains while delightfully skewering our culture's obsession with domestic perfection. In the spirit of John Updike's Witches of Eastwick and Alice Hoffman's Practical Magic, Schickel casts a spell all her own. Housewitch takes us deep inside the dark arts of 21st century motherhood and sparkles with unexpected magic." —Amber Dermont, New York Times bestselling author of The Starboard Sea

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“I could not wait to get my hands on Housewitch, a tale of modern domesticity and black magic. It's an original, fresh and absolutely captivating read.” —Elin Hilderbrand, New York Times bestselling author of The Rumor

“Schickel's debut entertains while delightfully skewering our culture's obsession with domestic perfection. In the spirit of John Updike's Witches of Eastwick and Alice Hoffman's Practical Magic, Schickel casts a spell all her own. Housewitch takes us deep inside the dark arts of 21st century motherhood and sparkles with unexpected magic.” —Amber Dermont, New York Times bestselling author of The Starboard Sea

“An unforgettable cast of characters and a powerful story about family, secrets, and magic. A magical, beautifully entertaining debut.” —Suzanne Palmieri, author of The Witch of Belladonna Bay

“Positively enchanted me from the first page to the last. Perfectly paced, witty and sharply observant, this is a don't-miss debut by a writer to watch.” —Meg Mitchell Moore, author of So Far Away

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780765377319
Publisher:
Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date:
02/17/2015
Pages:
352
Sales rank:
454,188
Product dimensions:
5.47(w) x 8.28(h) x 0.95(d)

Read an Excerpt

Housewitch


By Katie Schickel

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 2015 Katie Schickel
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7653-7730-2


CHAPTER 1

For every evil under the sun
There is a remedy or there is none.
If there be one, seek till you find it;
If there be none, never mind it.

—MOTHER GOOSE


Misery Shoal, Massachusetts • 1945


"Where's Papa?" Aurora asked as the sisters made their way across the mudflats and into the marsh.

"Papa's gone," Freya said, swatting at cattails, scattering their velvety seeds into the air.

A dense fog had rolled in from the sea. It shrouded Misery Shoal in a coat of gray, and brought with it the smell of winter.

"Where's he gone to?" Aurora asked.

"Never mind. He's just gone." Freya's red hair shined like a flame against the brittle landscape. She was the middle child, and the most beautiful of the sisters.

Somewhere a ship's horn belched through the stillness, and this made the girls alert, for they were unaccustomed to the sounds of Commoners at the shoal.

The oldest sister, Wilhemena, lifted the cauldron with both hands, tucking her elbows into her sides for leverage. It reminded Freya of the way she'd seen her father lift the cod and haddock to measure at the Derby Street Pier. Those fish could weigh up to fifty pounds and stand as tall as Freya herself. Even a strong man like her father had a hard time raising the hand scale high enough to clear the tails off the ground. His biceps, the tendons in his forearms, straining under the weight, his face pinched in anticipation while the fishmonger read the scale.

"When's he coming back?" Aurora asked.

"He ain't," Freya said.

"Never?"

"Never."

"Hush now. That's just more of your nonsense," Wilhemena said.

Aurora frowned. Although Papa was often at sea, she couldn't imagine never seeing him ever again. She turned to Wilhemena's wisdom on the matter. "Is it true? Is Papa never comin' home?"

"Of course it isn't true," Wilhemena said. She braced the cauldron against her stomach to keep the water from spilling out. "Let's hurry on home. Before the tide turns."

Misery Shoal was a spit of land shaped like a crow's claw, formed by centuries of longshore waves dragging sand and sediment southward. At high tide the neck of the shoal slunk underwater, making it impassable. Nautical maps warned sailors of its shifting nature with a black "XXX." Only the Ellylydan family called it home.

Freya and Aurora skipped after Wilhemena, stopping now and then to inspect a mud crab or pry open a clam in search of pearls. Aurora had heard stories of the pearl divers in Japan and found exquisite possibilities in an unopened mollusk.

"Freya, hurry up," Wilhemena called. "Come along now, Aurora."

Freya ignored her. She had captured a pickerel frog and was teasing it with a thatch of goldenrod. She shoved the frog into the pocket of her apron and squeezed, the poor creature clambering up the thin cotton, only to be squashed by Freya's fingers each time.

Up ahead, Wilhemena slowed her pace and clucked her tongue. There was work to be done. And even though her sisters were younger and more easily distracted by childish things, she expected them to at least try and work as hard as she.

Wilhemena yelled to Freya, who was crouching by a rock, "Watch the baby for me. I'm going up ahead."

"She ain't a baby anymore," Freya said. "Why are you always treating her like a little baby?"

"Mind your tongue," Wilhemena snapped. "Just watch after her."

Freya rolled her eyes and went back to torturing her frog.

As Wilhemena disappeared through the reeds, Aurora, who at four really wasn't a baby anymore and felt no more like a baby than her sisters, tromped barefoot into the spongy grass to get a better look at a water beetle.

"There's snakes in there," Freya called out. "Look. There's some moving the grass."

Aurora feared nothing of earthly creatures. Hexes, yes. Enchantments, definitely. For those were real. Snakes were far too interesting to be feared. She watched the reeds part and snap back to their vertical postures. "Just a muskrat," Aurora said, to which Freya replied, "It'll eat you up with its big fangs."

Aurora stopped to consider that scenario. She wasn't sure if Freya, being a whole year older and wiser to the world, might know something about muskrats that she had yet to discover. As far as she had seen, muskrats ate marsh plants and mussels and left little girls alone.

"You sure?" Aurora asked.

"Oh yes," Freya answered. "They start with your nose and work down. A girl was eaten by a muskrat just last week. All's they found left was her skull."

Aurora decided to resolve the matter with Wilhemena, who at eight, was even wiser to the world than Freya. She started walking, but as the thought of the little-girl-eating muskrat took shape in her mind, she quickened her pace until she was running as fast as she could through the marsh. By the time she made it to the creek, her doom seemed inevitable and she didn't notice the thistle patch until she ran right through it, taking a whipping against bare legs. She cried out.

Wilhemena ran to her, scooping Aurora into her arms. "It's okay, little one. I'll fix you up." Wilhemena pulled the burrs out of Aurora's skin. She found some bright green ribwort and chewed it into a pulp, then applied the salve onto Aurora's leg. Later that night she would make a poultice of soaked burdock leaves to draw out any infection.

When Freya caught up to them, she crossed her arms, a smile on her lips.

"Can a muskrat eat me up?" Aurora asked.

"Nonsense," Wilhemena said. There was no doubt about who would put such a thought in a little girl's head. "Freya, don't be so hateful."

When Wilhemena turned around to lift the cauldron, Freya took the opportunity to pinch Aurora on the arm. Aurora screeched, thinking at first that the muskrat had bitten her, but it was only Freya. Crying, she knew, would invite more punishment.

Rather, she pulled out the heavy artillery. "I'll tell Papa on you."

"Papa will wring your neck if he hears that you're scaring your little sister," Wilhemena said.

"You needn't worry about Papa," Freya replied, a look of contempt crossing her face.

Wilhemena opened her mouth to argue but there was work to be done. "Follow me," she said and led her sisters along the creek bed to the beach where they could find firewood.

The three girls gathered driftwood, fragments of lobster traps, boards from battered ships. Tucked behind a washed-up slab of concrete they spotted a patch of wild raspberries still clinging to thorny branches, miraculously undetected by birds. They dropped their wood and feasted on the last of the season's berries. When they had picked the bush bare, Wilhemena broke off a few branches and bundled them up with the wood. Red raspberry was known to aid in digestion and to keep malevolent spirits at bay.

The whole excursion had taken close to an hour and in the fog and ebbing light, the line between sky and sea had all but disappeared.

* * *

When the girls returned to the ridge, their mother, Elizabeth, was preparing the lye. It was the waxing crescent of the hunter's moon—the time to make soap. Carefully, she poured water into an ash hopper. A thin, brown trail dripped out of the bottom of the hopper and into a bucket. This was the potash lye for the soap. You could buy lye at the general store in town, you could even buy soap, but Elizabeth said the devil made work for idle hands. She made her own lye from the ashes collected in their fires. "Just like in the Old Ways," she'd say.

The wind shifted and sent smoke in Freya's direction. She fanned it away. Freya understood the Old Ways as something tangible, not just a time and place, but a way of being that involved herbs and stories and the potions that bound the two together.

The Old Ways meant toil.

Making their own candles and spinning their own wool were part of the Old Ways. Seasons revolved around such tasks: spring for planting, summer for picking and pickling, and then there was the fall.

Fall was for slaughtering.

Fattened pigs were slaughtered, their meat cured, their fat rendered: lard from the pigs, tallow from the cattle. The purified fat was stored in barrels for cooking throughout the year, and for making soap.

Elizabeth finished the lye, and sat her girls down, youngest to oldest, on a semicircle of tree stumps. She stoked the fire with driftwood and shagbark, watching the flames rise higher and higher, changing the substance of the wood from earth to fire. Element to element.

Damp and sticky with marsh water, the girls held their hands up to the fire to warm.

Freya opened the pocket of her apron and peeked at the frog that now sat limp and lifeless.

"You've worked hard today," Elizabeth said. "We shan't go cold this winter." She opened a picnic basket she had brought from the house and laid out a dinner of rolls and jars of homemade jams and butter.

The girls ate while Elizabeth set up the tools for making soap. She hung the cauldron from a metal tripod over the flames and organized the supplies—salt, lavender, and the fat for rendering. Then she began the day's Lesson.

"Who can tell me: What's the fattest part of an animal? The belly? The buttocks? The haunches?"

Freya thought back to her father lifting the cods on the hand scales at the Derby Street Pier. She thought of the massive biceps and the sun on his skin, the sweat running down to his shirt, leaving wet marks under his armpits. "The arms," she said, certain of her answer.

Elizabeth smiled.

Wilhemena ventured a guess. "The thighs?"

"Tummy?" asked Aurora.

"Very good, my little witches," Elizabeth said. "Those are all correct. We use all the parts. Waste not, want not, my dear little witches. Waste not, want not."

Elizabeth unwrapped the fat from butcher paper smeared with grease and blood. With Papa's fillet knife, she sliced the substance into chunks and dropped a piece into the cauldron.

She handed a chunk of the substance to Freya, but Freya refused it.

"Do what must be done, Freya," Elizabeth said.

"My turn, my turn," Aurora said, grabbing for the gristle.

"No," Elizabeth said, pulling it away. "This is Freya's job."

"Why don't I ever get to do nothing?" Aurora whined.

"Because you are the youngest. And the most special," Elizabeth said. This didn't bother Wilhemena. She was old enough to know that little white lies were a mother's way.

Elizabeth turned her attention back to Freya, her expression shifting as severely as the north wind. "You must make the best of what you've done. The job must be finished."

Freya sneered. She crossed her arms. Then, slowly, she reached for the substance and dropped it in the cauldron. It entered the water with a plop and splattered bits of meat and oil onto Freya's apron. She brushed at her apron, her face contorted in disgust.

"All of it," Elizabeth said sternly.

Freya added the rest of the substance to the water, lump by lump.

As the water boiled, the fat melted and an oily sheen formed on the surface. Rendering was a slow process. It required heat and patience and know-how.

Eventually, Aurora grew tired. Rubbing her eyes, she crawled onto Wilhemena's lap and fell asleep.

A bitter cold settled in as the night wore on, so Wilhemena walked Aurora back down the ridge to the house and through the kitchen where bundles of drying herbs hung from the ceiling. In the pantry, jars of tonics and extractions lined the shelves: pokeweed in wine, borage in honey, great fluffy leaves of mullein in alcohol.

She tucked Aurora into her warm feather bed and went back to the kitchen to fetch a bundle of dried rosemary. Rosemary was known to the Ellylydan women to soothe the mind and stir the memory. Wilhemena swished the rosemary over her sleeping sister and sang,

"Good night,
Sleep tight,
Wake up bright
In the morning light,
To do what's right
With all your might."


With her little sister sound asleep, Wilhemena left the house and walked back up the doe path in darkness toward the ridge. Melting fat overtook all the other smells of the shoal, the wet clay, the salt air, the coming winter.

All at once, Wilhemena stopped. She sensed something. Fear? Danger? She wasn't sure. She could feel it prickling her skin the way you feel yourself falling in a dream without being able to stop. Up ahead, Freya and Elizabeth peered into the cauldron, their faces lit up by the flames. They were whispering.

It was the clandestine way in which her mother and sister now spoke that frightened Wilhemena. As far as she knew, there were no secrets in her family. They all learned the same Lessons; they all worked together and played together, ate the same meals, practiced the same spells. She tiptoed closer to the fire until she was in hearing distance.

"All the impurities sink to the bottom. All the evil is washed away," Elizabeth said. "And we'll take that impure water and throw it back into the swamp, to settle with the cress and hawthorns. It will sink into the sludge where the gadflies lay their eggs. All we're left with is the purity. Tomorrow we'll mix in the lye and make our soap. To wash away your sins. To make you magic again. To make you whole."

"Will the soap make me pure, Mama?" Freya asked.

"The soap will hide what you don't want others to see. The soap will cast glamour over the eye. Do you know what glamour is, Freya?"

"No."

"Glamour is an enchantment. It's a way of making people see things that aren't so."

"Like a lie?"

"Not exactly a lie."

"A tall tale, then?"

"More like a deception. It's something that isn't all the way true, and it isn't all the way untrue. Just as the times in between times are neither past nor future. The not times, we call them. The in-between time. Dusk, dawn, midnight, new moon, full moon. These are the not times when doors to the other worlds are open, and when the magic is most potent. These are the times when you must become whole."

"Aren't I whole all the time, Mama?"

"We are all made up of darkness and light. Your darkness is more powerful. You are out of balance. You must transform from the dark to the light. Do you understand?"

Freya wiggled her heel into the moist ground. "I reckon so."

"Always remember this: There is no greater magic than to transform one thing into another."

"I understand," said Freya.

Elizabeth stood to gather more wood. Wilhemena got up from her hiding spot and joined Freya at the fire.

She wanted to ask what the conversation was about. Why had Mama taught Freya about glamour and not her? And why was it a secret? As her mind tackled the questions, Wilhemena noticed a bulge in the pocket of Freya's apron.

"What have you got in your pocket?"

"Nothing," Freya said.

"I can see you got something in there."

"It's none of your concern."

"Freya, you show me what you've got hiding in there right now, or I'll give you a spanking myself before Mama does."

Freya was about to argue, when Wilhemena reached into the pocket, as quick as a flash, and pulled the dead pickerel frog out.

"Hey, that's mine," Freya said.

"How long has this frog been dead?"

"It's not dead."

"Is so."

"Is not."

Wilhemena held it out by its motionless front legs to prove her point.

"You shouldn't kill innocent creatures, Freya. It's wasteful. Now go put this frog in the icebox so we can use it for bait. Waste not, want not." She tossed the frog to her sister.

Freya thought a moment, her anger veiled behind calm eyes. Then she tossed the frog back. "You go put it in the icebox. You're the one wants to keep it so bad."

Wilhemena wrapped the frog in a leaf and carried it back down the doe path to the house, where she climbed the splintered steps to the porch. She lifted the top of the icebox, which was filled, as always, with packages of meat wrapped in butcher paper. She put the frog on top of a package and lowered the lid. Something caught her eye. She opened the lid again.

There was a hand poking out of a package at the bottom. She was sure it was a hand. The hand of a man. The wedding band glistening in the hazy moonlight.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Housewitch by Katie Schickel. Copyright © 2015 Katie Schickel. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

KATIE SCHICKEL graduated from Georgetown University with a degree in English. She lives in Massachusetts. Housewitch is her first novel.

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Housewitch 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Any book that has the ability to grab me a d not let go until The End is a good book. Looking forward to more!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mengel2 More than 1 year ago
Growing up in foster care, Allison Darling never quite fit in.  And, as an adult, she still strives to be part of a group.  Now a wife and mother of three, Allison lives in a town reminiscent of a Stepford Wife community.  A community that is so concerned with looks and status, a community that Allison so wants to be a part of. When she’s approached to join the Glamour Girls, Monrovia’s elite group of women who belong to an at-home shopping company that specializes in soap, she’s all over that invitation.  You see, the Glamour Girls pretty much run the town.  From school events to business transactions, it’s the ‘it’ group to be in. But as her magical powers start popping up, and at the most inopportune times, Allison tries her hardest to conceal her secret.  The secret that she’s a witch!  She’s determined not to let the other women find out and potentially ruin her chances at belonging to a group.  What she doesn’t know, is that she isn’t the only witch in Monrovia.   Housewitch is author Katie Schickel’s debut novel.  A story about family secrets, acceptance and magic perfectly blended with witty humor, this book has all the elements of a great novel.  And, with a cast of fun characters, you will have a hard time putting this book down.  
weluvdopey More than 1 year ago
Looks Cute!  I received a PREVIEW of this book from the publisher from NetGalley, so my review is only for the first part that I read.  Allison was in foster care ever since her mother left her. She knows that she is different when she wishes something to happen and it does. Allison is at a petting zoo and her daughter wants the pigs to dance, the next thing is the pigs are dancing. She starts remembering things her mother taught her when she was little and that she is a powerful witch.  Allison just wants to fit in with the other perfect mothers but when her mother dies, her aunt tells her that her evil aunt is going to come after her and her children. Now Allison must re-learn her magic so she can protect the ones she loves.  I would love to read the rest of this book, and have added it to my wish list.  A Review copy was provided to me in exchange for a fair and honest review. The free book held no determination on my personal review.
gigiluvsbooks More than 1 year ago
Allison Darling, former foster child, now a stay-at-home mom of three, desperately wants to fit in with the organic latte drinking, hundred-dollar-yoga-pants-wearing moms who run Monrovia, her charming seaside village. Constantly feeling like an outsider, Allison dreams of more for her children. When the Glamour Girls, a soap-selling company run by the most charismatic and powerful women in town, recruits Allison, she jumps at the invitation. The Glamour Girls have a hand in everything in Monrovia, from bake sales to business deals. This is what Allison’s wanted her whole life—to be liked. To be popular. To belong. After Allison’s estranged mother passes away, she learns her family’s heartbreaking legacy and the secret Allison’s been fighting to suppress all her life emerges: she’s a witch. What’s more, she’s not the only one in town. There’s more to the Glamour Girls then it seems… and once you’re a Glamour Girl, there’s no going back. Allison must use her rediscovered magic to defend Monrovia, protect her marriage and her children, and reclaim her legacy. Fighting tooth and nail for her family is easy, but what about for herself? Is it too late to confront her own demons and become the woman she dreams of being? Review: What a great story, from first time Author Katie Schickle! I was intrigued when I saw this on Netgalley and thought it would be right up my alley, so I requested it and was lucky enough to get to read it for review.   In this story Allison/Allesone lives in an almost Stepford Wives Community, where it is all about what you have and how you look.  Allison tries to fit in and practically kills herself trying to be accepted and make a better life for her kids.  See Allison was "abandoned" by her mother at a young age, or at least that is what she remembers.  She knows that she had strange powers as a child, but she had locked those away,  now living in Monrovia the powers are popping up and the most opportune times and in front of the Queen Bee of Monrovia (Astrid), no less.  Then, she gets a phone call that her mother is dying and she should come right away.  Without giving away a ton, this sets in motion a chain of events that nearly destroy Allison's life, it also brings her closure and happiness of  accepting herself and what she is. I thought the Author was very clever using a mix of history, fantasy and realism in this story.  I liked that we not only get Allison's story, but the story of her mother and her aunts to give us a well-rounded story and a set-up for Allison's "abandonment" and eventual coming to live in the Stepford Community of Monrovia.  How things were intertwined was very good too, like how Glamour Girls and their domination was inspired by the radical change of a neighbor selling Avon products many years ago.  I really enjoyed this and kudos to the Author on this debut release! 4 Stars