The Keeper

The Keeper

3.3 28
by Sarah Langan
     
 

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Some believe Bedford, Maine, is cursed. Its bloody past, endless rain, and the decay of its downtown portend a hopeless future. With the death of its paper mill, Bedford's unemployed residents soon find themselves with far too much time to dwell on thoughts of Susan Marley. Once the local beauty, she's now the local whore. Silently prowling the muddy streets, she

Overview

Some believe Bedford, Maine, is cursed. Its bloody past, endless rain, and the decay of its downtown portend a hopeless future. With the death of its paper mill, Bedford's unemployed residents soon find themselves with far too much time to dwell on thoughts of Susan Marley. Once the local beauty, she's now the local whore. Silently prowling the muddy streets, she watches eerily from the shadows, waiting for . . . something. And haunting the sleep of everyone in town with monstrous visions of violence and horror.

Those who are able will leave Bedford before the darkness fully ascends. But those who are trapped here—from Susan Marley's long-suffering mother and younger sister to her guilt-ridden, alcoholic ex-lover to the destitute and faithless with nowhere else to go—will soon know the fullest and most terrible meaning of nightmare.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In her assured but overstuffed horror debut, Langan lovingly crafts the struggling town of Bedford, Maine, its unlucky inhabitants and the troubling history of the town's shuttered paper mill, before tearing it all to bloody pieces. Bedford is haunted by the beautiful Susan Marley, a damaged young woman who wanders the streets and never speaks a word, stirring "feeling[s] of something undone, something quite wrong, at the sight of her." Those feelings are strongest in Susan's maladjusted little sister, Liz, wracked with guilt over Susan's fate; their mother, who refuses to acknowledge her wayward daughter's existence; and alcoholic high school teacher Paul Martin, who once had an affair with Susan. Susan's fall to her death in the final, rain-soaked days of winter triggers a series of events that bring the buried secrets of the town to terrifying reality people and animals rise from the dead, and a spirit of homicidal rage grips the living. Fighting to survive, Langan's characters come brilliantly to life, their inner conflicts rendered in sharp but exhausting detail at once expansive and constricting, slowing the narrative to a crawl just before it whips into frenzied, graphic violence. This is horror on a big scale, akin to the more ambitious work of Stephen King, and though Langan's enormous imagination can slow her narrative, this effective debut promises great things to come. (Oct.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
New York Times Book Review
“it’s the only horror story I’ve read recently that finds adequate metaphors for the self-destructive properties of anger.”
Washington Times
“it’s hard to put down...”
London Times
“Langan has a sharp eye for the small vivid details of American life, and her characters are utterly believable. Reminiscent of early Stephen King, this is not for the squeemish”
Peter Straub
“[A] distinct and juicy flavor all its own. THE KEEPER begins what should be a very fruitful career.”
Tim Lebbon
“[A] brilliant debut, heralding the arrival of a major talent.”
Kelly Link
“THE KEEPER kept me up, late into the night...I’m hoping for a whole shelf of novels by Langan.”
Ramsey Campbell
“A dark and bracingly bleak tale of supernatural terror.”
Douglas E. Winter
“Deft and disturbing... twists expectations into surreal surprises... hypnotic reading - an assured and impressive debut.”
Ray Garton
“An astonishing first novel...chilling, haunting, and so smartly written that the pages fly by like the wind.”
Jack Ketchum
“A smart, brand-new take on the haunted house story…hard to believe this is a first novel.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061841156
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
10/13/2009
Sold by:
HARPERCOLLINS
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
400
Sales rank:
155,009
File size:
618 KB

Read an Excerpt

The Keeper


By Sarah Langan

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Sarah Langan
All right reserved.

ISBN: 006087290X

Chapter One

Behind the Cemetery

Liz Marley was a pretty girl with brown eyes and brown hair. Her attractiveness came less from her looks than from a generosity of character. When people spoke, she listened. When they needed comfort, she overcame her natural shyness and offered words of consolation. These qualities, easy to overlook, can make a plain face beautiful. But underneath her eyes were chronic dark circles, the result of too little sleep and bad nutrition. Over the years she had tried the cabbage diet, the protein diet, and the toothpick diet, all supplemented by late-show nachos and Cheez Whiz. Throughout these diets, her body had remained an adamant fifteen pounds overweight. In bed at night she sometimes squeezed the extra inches of fat on her stomach, silently accusing her body of betrayal.

It was an early Thursday morning in March, and the sun would not rise over this stretch of northern Maine for several hours. Liz Marley was standing inside the wrought-iron gates of the Bedford Cemetery. She blew out a deep breath, and watched the cloud of it billow in the cold air, and then dissipate into nothing. Down the hill the town still slept, and in front of her the cemetery was veiled in a layer of the most recent snow. Though this visit was a somber occasion, she was giddywith courage. Being here was a brave secret that no one would ever know.

In the center of the cemetery, a large stone angel presided over William Prentice's body. One of its wings was missing, and over the years the features of its face had been ground smooth. William Prentice had invested heavily in the Clott Paper Mill, and for a long time, it was his vision that had allowed the town to prosper. But the mill closed last month, and "For Sale" signs now adorned the houses on Nudd, Chestnut, and Mayflower Streets like decoration. The stone angel reminded Liz of a poem she'd read in English class about a forgotten king in a wasteland, warning all to look on his works, ye mighty, and despair, in a place where lone and level sands stretched far away.

Liz walked to the back of the cemetery. At the far corner, she found what she was looking for. The stone was smaller than most, and there were fresh red roses, their petals clinging closely together, at the foot of the grave. The inscription might have read husband or father or skinny asshole, but it said none of those things. Ted Marley (1963-2001), it read, and that was the best way to remember him: a name.

"Hi Dad," she said. "It's me. Lizzie. The daughter who isn't crazy."

She waited, almost expecting him to say hello back. Hi, princess! he might say. In her most perfect fantasy, he would call her princess and look at her with eyes full of pride like those dads on the WB: I'm not really dead. I was just sleeping. But now I'm back and I'm going to make everything right.

She sat down on the wet ground, and snow seeped through the nylon of her jacket. In the months after his death, Liz's mother had quietly embarked on a mission to erase Ted Marley. She donated his clothes and Red Sox caps to the Goodwill in Corpus Christi, and took down the photos of him, even family photos, from the end table in the television room. The rest of his things she stuffed into boxes and abandoned at the public dump.

Despite her mother's best intentions, Liz remembered a lot of things about her father. He used to drink Rolling Rock because he said it was worth the extra fifty cents, rather than choking on a Bud. He'd smelled like skunk from working around hydrogen sulfide fumes all day at the mill. Each night he'd showered with Irish Spring soap, and then announced at the dinner table, "Fresh as a daisy, ladies and gents." On his days off he'd worked in his garden, planting beans and spinach and cucumbers that they had eaten all summer long. After dinner he used to have her sit on his lap. He'd say things like: "Don't worry Lizzie Pie, you're okay. And all those nasty girls who say you have cooties are gonna be toothless and pregnant by the time they're sixteen, so don't you worry."

Really, she liked almost everything about him. It was just the other things, the things he did to Susan. There had been a time when she wondered if it had happened to her as well. But eventually she had accepted that for some reason, she had always been safe. For some reason, she was the lucky one whose stomach he had not scored with bruises.

And maybe she had it all wrong. Maybe none of those bad memories were true. Just stuff you invent when you're feeling blue. Susan was not normal. Long before things with their father went wrong, Susan had been strange. I can fly if I want, she used to tell Liz. I just have to move my arms really fast. I can make myself invisible. I can see things you can't.

Years later, when Susan was in high school and the bruises stopped appearing, Susan was still strange. She moved down to the basement and only came up for meals, and she got mean. Like something rotting right in front of them at the dinner table, she got mean.

Susan dropped out of high school and moved to an apartment on the east side when she turned eighteen. Occasionally, Liz saw her taking one of her famous walks through town. Always, Susan would smile at her like they shared a dirty secret. And then she'd turn away, like she couldn't stand the sight of her own blood.

People in Bedford said Susan was a witch. They said she visited their dreams. They said she was the reason the mill had closed. . . .

Continues...


Excerpted from The Keeper by Sarah Langan Copyright © 2006 by Sarah Langan. Excerpted by permission.
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.

What People are saying about this

Peter Straub
“[A] distinct and juicy flavor all its own. THE KEEPER begins what should be a very fruitful career.”
Kelly Link
“THE KEEPER kept me up, late into the night...I’m hoping for a whole shelf of novels by Langan.”
Ray Garton
“An astonishing first novel...chilling, haunting, and so smartly written that the pages fly by like the wind.”
Ramsey Campbell
“A dark and bracingly bleak tale of supernatural terror.”
Tim Lebbon
“[A] brilliant debut, heralding the arrival of a major talent.”
Douglas E. Winter
“Deft and disturbing... twists expectations into surreal surprises... hypnotic reading - an assured and impressive debut.”

Meet the Author

Sarah Langan received her MFA in fiction writing from Columbia University. She studied with Michael Cunningham, Nicholas Christopher, Helen Schulman, Susan Kenney, and Maureen Howard, among others, all of whom have been instrumental to her work. The author of The Keeper and the Bram Stoker Award-winning The Missing, she is a master's candidate in environmental medicine at NYU and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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Keeper 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 28 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed Langans 1st novel, I couldn't put it down, I didn't feel that it jumped around at all, the writer was story-building, and wrote it beautifully, I liked that the chapters were short, because in my hectic life, I was always interrupted, but it was good because I could always finish a chapter. As this great horror story unfolds, you'll not want to be disturbed, but I caution that for even more enjoyment, to read by yourself in a well lit room because this book delivers in every way. I don't want to ruin the story for anyone, but I would like to say what the story is about A small town in Maine watches the growing horror as Susan Marley is transformed as once a sweet little girl, into the neighborhood town whore. But no one can imagine the depths of her personal hell. When Susan is overwhelmed with the town ghosts, she wreaks horrific vengenance on anyone who has ever wronged her.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Bedford, Maine is dying as the last industry the paper mill closes. People are leaving to escape the darkness that is everywhere. Susan Marley, who embodies the dark side of the town, is bringing destruction beyond her control to her hometown. She knows their secrets and many are forced to stay because they have nowhere to go. Many even blame her for the rains that never end. Susan is the embodiment of their worst nightmare because a part of her lives in each of them.------------- Her sister Liz tries to mend the bonds broken when their father chose Susan as his favorite. Liz tries to ignore what he did to her older sister unlike her mother who chooses to believe her oldest daughter is dead. When Susan dies in an accident, most people are relieved, but that changes to horror as she rises from the grave to make her neighbors face what they are.----------- Nobody will believe the aptly naked THE KEEPER is Sarah Langan¿s first novel because the tension that mounts will remind the audience of King and Koontz. The character seem real, which makes the events that more frightening as the darkness inside of everyone threatens to emerge supreme. Keep the lights on as this is a dark scary thriller.-------- Harriet Klausner
SteveDeg More than 1 year ago
A good tale of suspense and haunting. A small town being devoured by itself and the main stay of employment, an old paper mill. The doors have been shut, and families start leaving. Some remain behind hoping for revival. Leaving them dwelling on Susan Marley, the local beauty, and now satisfying the men. Her past , a nightmare buried deep. She wanders the streets waiting for the evil to rise. The town folk haunted by nightmares of Susan. A little vague at the beginning, slowly evolves into a haunting ride. I did enjoy the characters and the atmosphere. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Pretty good
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This book started out to be really interesting. Then it slowed to a crawl and I couldn't wait for it to end. It's not "scary, I can't put it down" but more like "let's get on with it." I would not recommend this book due to the drawn out second half. --K--
Anonymous More than 1 year ago