On a snowy winter night, a woman tells her grandchildren magical stories of the town in which she grew up in Vincent’s (Donbridge: The Lost Princess of Lenape Valley, 2017, etc.) interconnected collection of novellas.
These three long tales, set in the fictional Hudson Valley town of Donbridge, are bound together by a framing device: a woman named Jules, aka “Grandmamma,” tells them to her grandsons, Michael and Jasper. Donbridge was a town laden with mystery and fantastical secrets, with a culture that drew upon that of English settlers and of the Lenape tribe that originated there. Each of Jules’ tales is laden with supernatural goings-on. In the first, The Ring of Lazarus, a young girl named Julianne disappears while walking in the woods, possibly the victim of a creature called the Panderlaub. In The Legend of Tamarack Hill, set many years earlier than the previous story, a girl named Lavinia disappears, and her sister, Sarah, decides to learn magic from an old woman who lives in the woods. Finally, in The Miracles of Midwife Sutton, a child, resurrected from the dead, reacclimates to life with the help of Samuel, the son of the local midwife. Reading this beautiful, haunting book feels very much like being told authentic, whispered folk tales by a beloved older relative. Each one conjures up a lush, vivid world, and the overall style is redolent of American Colonial-era stories and European fairy tales, with a dash of Edgar Allan Poe’s work thrown in for good measure. That said, the stories are rather slow-paced and low on action, which makes it hard to believe that they would have kept the attention of young children, and more chapter breaks would have been useful. But overall, this book delivers a captivating, absorbing read.
An imaginative, eerie book well suited to fans of folklore and magical realism.