Book Sixty-Three of 2014: The Barter by Siobhan Adcock

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A heart-stopping tale as provocative as is suspenseful, about two conflicted women, separated by one hundred years, and bound by an unthinkable sacrifice.
The Barter is a ghost story and a love story, a riveting emotional tale that also explores motherhood and work and feminism. Set in Texas, in present day, and at the turn of the twentieth century, the novel follows two young mothers at the turning point of their lives.
Bridget has given up her career as an attorney to raise her daughter, joining a cadre of stay-at-home mothers seeking fulfillment in a quiet suburb. But for Bridget, some crucial part of the exchange is absent: Something she loves and needs. And now a terrifying presence has entered her home; only nobody but Bridget can feel it.
On a farm in 1902, a young city bride takes a farmer husband. The marriage bed will become both crucible and anvil as Rebecca first allows, then negates, the powerful erotic connection between them. She turns her back on John to give all her love to their child. Much will occur in this cold house, none of it good.
As Siobhan Adcock crosscuts these stories with mounting tension, each woman arrives at a terrible ordeal of her own making, tinged with love and fear and dread. What will they sacrifice to save their families—and themselves? Readers will slow down to enjoy the gorgeous language, then speed up to see what happens next in a plot that thrums with the weight of decision—and its explosive consequences.

I won The Barter by Siobhan Adcock from a Goodreads giveaway. I received this free First Reads book for an honest review. I love ghost stories and a ghost story that delves into two different time periods intrigued me. That said, I didn’t care for it.

The story is well written and does pull the reader in instantly, but when the “horror” of the ghost appears, it’s not that horrific. It seems more like the delusions of a woman going through post partum blues and just isn’t the type of woman who should be a stay at home mom.

Let me clarify that before people start getting upset with me. I’m a stay at home mom. I love it, but I wouldn’t shove that ideal in someone’s throat. I have friends who have careers (I don’t want a career beyond my writing and since writing is more productive at home, a stay at home mom makes sense) and being a stay at home mom would drive them crazy. They thrive in the workplace. Some thrive at the home. I don’t really know where I stand, but I’m definitely not the stereotypical mom at home.

In The Barter, Bridget is a career woman. She thrives in that enviornment. She loves her daughter and wanted more time with her, hence her choice with being stay at home. However, the stay at home moms that thrive as stay at home moms in the book seem to be two dimensional. I didn’t care that those moms didn’t seem to have any real personality and instead were separated cookie cutter parts to the stereotype of stay at home moms. It is this clash of feminine/feminist ideals (which I think is a bogus clash) that seems to be what feeds the “ghost”.

I personally saw the ghost as a metaphor of sacrifice and decisions women make to be who they want to be. In the case of this book, it seems the author is championing the working mom versus the stay at home mom. I make that comment because the woman who is the ghost is the woman from 100 years in the past and was, because of societal views, figuratively “forced” (she made the choice) into a loveless marriage and to live in a lifestyle she was unaccostomed to.

The ghost is nothing more than a symbolic way to describe a woman’s lack of fullfillment. In that respect it could be psychological. However, it was lacking in the real suspense and instead of looking over my shoulder or contemplating my own life, I’m left at being annoyed at the clear separation of the motherhood choices and the poor choices made by the mothers in the book.

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