You can’t escape what’s in your blood…

All Rob wanted was a normal life. She almost got it, too: a husband, two kids, a nice house in the suburbs. But Rob fears for her oldest daughter, Callie, who collects tiny bones and whispers to imaginary friends. Rob sees a darkness in Callie, one that reminds her too much of the family she left behind.

She decides to take Callie back to her childhood home, to Sundial, deep in the Mojave Desert. And there she will have to make a terrible choice.

Callie is worried about her mother. Rob has begun to look at her strangely, and speaks of past secrets. And Callie fears that only one of them will leave Sundial alive…

The mother and daughter embark on a dark, desert journey to the past in the hopes of redeeming their future.

My Review

I loved The Last House on Needless Street so I was excited when this appeared on my bookclub The Pigeonhole. However, Sundial is something very different. I’m not sure it was really for me but I still enjoyed it – if that’s the right word.

Totally surreal, and at times horrific, (but it does warn you that this falls partly into the horror genre), mother Rob just wants an ordinary life. But 12-year-old daughter Callie hurts her little sister Annie, keeps pictures made from real animal bones (did she kill them?) so she can talk to them and also talks to an imaginary friend who she calls Pale Callie.

Husband Irving is horrible to Rob. He hurts her, puts maggots in her suitcase (who does that?) and threatens her when she says she wants to leave him.

But it’s Callie that is Rob’s main concern. So they take a trip to Rob’s childhood home Sundial, in the Mojave desert, where she will have to make a life-changing decision.

But all is not as it seems. Who really were Rob’s ‘parents’ Falcon and Mia? What happened to her twin sister Jack and what was the ‘puppy farm’ nearby? Some of the concepts are literally terrifying. At times I really had no idea what was going on.

This is a brilliant book but I have to say that if this story evolved from my own imagination I’d be quite worried!

Many thanks to The Pigeonhole and my fellow Pigeons for making this such an enjoyable read.

About the Author

Catriona Ward was born in Washington, DC and grew up in the United States, Kenya, Madagascar, Yemen, and Morocco. She read English at St Edmund Hall, Oxford and is a graduate of the Creative Writing MA at the University of East Anglia.

Stephen King praised her gothic thriller, saying: ‘The buzz building around Catriona Ward’s The Last House on Needless Street is real. I’ve read it and was blown away. It’s a true nerve-shredder that keeps its mind-blowing secrets to the very end. Haven’t read anything this exciting since Gone Girl.’ It was published in 2021 by Viper (UK) and Tor Nightfire (USA).

Sundial was published by Nightfire (US) and Viper (UK) in March 2022.

Ward’s second novel Little Eve won the 2019 Shirley Jackson Award, as well as the August Derleth Prize at the British Fantasy Awards, and was a Guardian best book of 2018. Little Eve will be published in the US by Tor Nightfire in October 2022.

Ward’s debut Rawblood also won the 2016 August Derleth, making her the only woman to have won the prize twice. Her short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies. ‘The Pier at Ardentinny’ was shortlisted for the ALCS Tom Gallon Trust Award organised by the Royal Society of Literature. She lives in London and Devon.

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