Title: Hemlock Grove
Author: Brian McGreevy
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 2012
The body of a young girl is found mangled and murdered in the woods of Hemlock Grove, Pennsylvania, in the shadow of the abandoned Godfrey steel mill. A manhunt ensues—though the authorities aren’t sure if it’s a man they should be looking for.
Some suspect an escapee from the White Tower, a forbidding biotech facility owned by the Godfrey family—their person fortune and the local economy having moved on from Pittsburgh steel—where, if the rumors are true, biological experiments of the most unethical kind take place. Others turn to Peter Rumancek, a Gypsy trailer-trash kid who has told impressionable high school classmates that he’s a werewolf. Or perhaps it’s Roman, the son of the late JR Godfrey, who rules the adolescent social scene with the casual arrogance of a cold-blooded aristocrat, his superior status unquestioned despite his decidedly freakish sister, Shelley, whose monstrous medical conditions belie a sweet intelligence, and his otherworldly control freak of a mother, Olivia.
At once a riveting mystery and a fascinating revelation of the grotesque and the darkness in us all, Hemlock Grove has the architecture and energy to become a classic in its own right—and Brian McGreevy the talent and ambition to enthrall us for years to come.
This novel is truly beautiful. Brian McGreevy is an incredibly talented author. The language with which he weaves his story is absolutely exquisite, and I cannot degrade it with my usual trite remarks. Hemlock Grove, in my humble opinion, is a modern-day classic. McGreevy revamps gothic fiction just enough to ensure he is not simply recreating the old but making something entirely new.
McGreevy recounts the unlikely and twisted alliance between Peter Rumancek and Roman Godfrey. Hemlock Grove becomes the hunting ground for an evil murderer not long after Peter, a gypsy werewolf, moves to town. Naturally, suburbanites fear Peter’s nomadic lifestyle. They, as a community, cannot grasp the idea of not having roots or obligations. And it is only natural to fear the unknown and misunderstood. Peter then meets Roman, the severely fucked-up heir to a large fortune, who can make people do what he wants not only because of his last name, but because he is an upir. The pair become linked by their curiosity involving the murders of these young women. They resolve to find the responsible party, and hope to help him recover his sanity. It is their belief that the murderer is simply sick, not evil.
Roman’s sister, Shelley, is by and large my favorite character. It is alluded that she is sustained by phosphorous; not any sort of life force with which she was born, but something gifted to her at the White Tower after her death as a young child. She is incredibly smart with a keen eye for reality. As a fan of the clever use of literary devices, I also greatly appreciate her name. I mentioned that McGreevy revamps gothic fiction. He uses a werewolf, vampire, and zombie (what does one call a creature like Shelley?) to tell his story. It is a lovely work of art.
I highly recommend this novel to everyone on the planet. As I can’t possibly speak to everyone on the planet, my recommendation is limited, but no less heartfelt. If you want to kill book fairies everywhere, don’t read this book. But if you don’t read the book, promise me you will find a way to watch the series on Netflix. It was written and produced by McGreevy, and as such is an almost acceptable substitute. I can only hope that he will write another book because as I said before, the man has a gift.
Seriously, read it.
The Whole Shebang: 4.8/5