The Den by Abi Maxwell

The Den

Abi Maxwell

With echoes of The Scarlet Letter, Abi Maxwell gives us a transporting, layered tale of two women, living generations apart yet connected by place and longing, and condemned for the very same desires.

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A luminous, hypnotic story of youth, sex, and power that tells of two young women who find themselves ostracized from the same small New England community for the same reasons--though they are separated by 150 years.

Henrietta and Jane are fifteen and twelve, growing up in a farmhouse on the outskirts of town. Their mother is a painter, lost in her art, their father a cook who's raised them on magical tales about their land. When Henrietta becomes obsessed with a boy from town, Jane takes to trailing the young couple, spying on their trysts--until one night, Henrietta vanishes into the woods. Elspeth and Claire are sisters separated by an ocean--Elspeth's pregnancy at seventeen meant she was quickly married and sent to America to avoid certain shame. But when she begins ingratiating herself to the town's wealthy mill owner, a series of wrenching and violent events unfold, culminating in her disappearance. As Jane and Claire search in their own times for their missing sisters, they each come across a strange story about a family that is transformed into coyotes. But what does this myth mean? Are their sisters dead, destroyed by men and lust? Or, are they alive and thriving beyond the watchful eyes of their same small town? With echoes of The Scarlet Letter, Abi Maxwell gives us a transporting, layered tale of two women, living generations apart yet connected by place and longing, and condemned for the very same desires.

Advance Galley Reviews

Didn't get a chance to read this one before it expired.

When I started to read the book I struggled a lot. I couldn’t get into the story and didn’t connect with the characters either. I quit reading it several times until finally I could finish it. It is enjoyable and well written. I am glad I kept reading it.

Didn't get a chance to read it unfortunately.

The overall plot of this story is intriguing, but telling it in two different timelines makes it feel disjointed. I was much more interested in the modern day storyline of Jane & Henrietta than I was in the storyline of Elspeth & Claire. Everytime the story switched to the older timeline, I was pulled out of the story. This made it more difficult to read the book, but overall, the story was enjoyable.

I enjoyed how the author integrated the story of the immigrants living in the woods and then the story of the two sisters who later lived in the same woods. The story plot did have some holes in it for me, namely the incident in which Henrietta suddenly finds a briefcase full of cash in the neighbor's closet and takes off. I wanted to learn more about where this money came from and why the neighbors or at the father did not ever mention this or try to find the stolen funds. The imagery of men and wolves and savagery was very powerful throughout. I appreciated the consistency of this theme during many parts of the story. Also, the universal theme of wanting to go home, no matter what waits for you there, is very impactful in the two storylines. Overall, I would recommend this story for someone who likes elements of fantasy or classic fairy tales in their reading.

While this book was pretty well-written, I had a hard time really getting into the story itself. The pacing was a bit inconsistent, I couldn’t connect with the characters as a result of it, and I found myself wanting to skim some of the sections due to the sometimes dense writing. I made it to the end of the book, and the ending was pretty much what I expected. Overall, I felt this book was a bit rushed and it didn’t captivate me as much as similar books have. Thanks to First to Read for letting me read this early in exchange for an honest review.

I wasn't sure what to expect when starting this, but I am pleasantly surprised with what I found. And don't let the shorter length of this fool you, it still packs a hell of a punch. This story follows two sets of sisters—one pair in the 1990s, and the other in the mid-1800s. Although the story does include each of the four sisters perspectives, it focuses on Jane and Henrietta primarily. I feel that Jane is meant to be the "protagonist" though, as her perspective is the only one of the four told in first person, whereas the other three perspectives are in third person.  The fates of these two pairs of sisters is impressively woven. With every new chapter, you think you understand what happened to Henrietta and Elspeth in each of their respective timelines, but then another layer is added to their stories. Because of this, I would say this definitely has a literary mystery aspect, in addition to being historical fiction.  I think saying this has "echoes of The Scarlet Letter" is accurate, but it is a very faint "echo". The tone of this is very somber, and in much the same way as The Scarlet Letter, so in that respect I do see the comparison.  If you've read and liked this—and particularly Jane's character—I recommend We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson.

Two sets of sisters (Henrietta & Jane and Elspeth & Claire) are separated by time (150 years) but linked by the myth of "The Den" and its coyotes. In each sister pair, the older one is faced with an unplanned pregnancy at an early age while the younger one becomes the "good" child to their parents. The author captures each character's emotions, but I personally could not connect to any of girls. Thanks to First to Read- Penguin Books USA for the free copy of this book.

Thank you for the Advanced Reader. The Den is a series of coming-of-age stories for each of the four women Maxwell writes about. Unfortunately, it didn't resonate with me. The writing, while good, was not engaging or stimulating. To be honest, I skimmed through the last half and still got the idea of what happened to everyone. This type of story may just not be for me. The present day parts gave me Atonement vibes while the 17th/18th century parts give me vague echoes of the Scarlet Letter as the summary promised. It was an okay book, not a great one. Thanks again for the advanced reader.

We all grow up with myths. Myths about place. Myths about history. Myths about family. Growing up is, in part, about the sifting process that takes us from a world of myth to one of truth. Abi Maxwell’s The Den tells the story of two pairs of sisters, separated by one and a half centuries, but who are inextricably linked by myth. Located in a small New Hampshire town surrounded by wilderness, both pairs of sisters are separated by one’s decision to leave – a decision forced by what their small towns will and will not accept from a young woman. Told in alternating points of view – eventually getting around to all four – the story focuses on the more recent pair of sisters, Jane and Henrietta. Jane, the younger of the two, is haunted by her sister’s abrupt disappearance, her role in the false accusation of Henrietta’s lover, and the story that has been recorded about a family who once dwelled in the same spot. As Jane comes into her own, she begins to realize that in order to have real peace about the place she calls home, she’ll need to look directly into the myths she’s believed and sort out once and for all, fact from fiction. In doing this, she may find better truths than what she had expected. Maxwell’s book should appeal to those who enjoy the themes of sisters, lore and nature. What started slow for me, came together as an enjoyable read in the end.

Thank you to First to Read for this ARC! "The Den" is a coming of age story that follows two sets of sisters 150 years apart. Most of the book focuses on Jane and Henrietta in the 2000s. Henrietta becomes involved with a boy from town and then a married doctor and finds herself pregnant. Her younger sister Jane, who has been watching her sister become more wild and sexually active, is the most concerned about her sister's disappearance. Their story is echoed in the past with Elspeth and Claire, who have a similar dynamic. Elspeth becomes pregnant and moves to America with her husband, where she later disappears. Claire travels to America in search of answers to what happened to her sister. Both stories are tied together by "the Den" and the story of a family that turned into coyotes. Unfortunately for me, this was just an okay book. I thought that the connection between all of the stories was interesting, but otherwise I found it kind of boring. I don't know if I was just not in the right mood for this book, but it was a real struggle to finish. It's not a bad book - I feel like it was fairly well written and books with interesting family dynamics are always good to see. I think this book would be enjoyable for some people, but I guess it's just not for me.

I gave this one a three-star rating because the idea for the story was good, and for the most part, the execution of the story worked. The primary story is one of Jane and Harriet, but the secondary story of Elspeth and her family could have been a different book of its own. I feel like the secondary story of the family from the 1800s is played up more than is needed. I think their entire story could have been summed up with fewer chapters than we were given. Especially as I got to the end of the book I felt that the extended descriptions of the Scottish family were not necessary. The plots of the stories were good, and relating them with flashbacks and similar stories is always an interesting idea, but this one could have been executed a lot better.

I received this book from First to Read for an honest review. This is a story about two sisters growing up in a farmhouse on the outskirts of a town in New Hampshire, raised by an artist mother and a father who is a cook at a local hospital in town. The sisters, Jane and Henrietta grow up hearing their father tell them a tale about a woman who used to live in the woods with her family in the 1850's close to their farmhouse. The sisters name the area where the family lived The Den. According to the father's story the family vanished and supposedly were eaten by coyotes. When Henrietta is 16 she vanishes one night and is not seen again. The story also details the tale of Elspeth and Claire, two sisters separated by an ocean. When Elspeth becomes pregnant as a teenager, she and her husband sail for America and settle in New Hampshire. Elspeth starts ingratiating herself with the new mill owner and this results in her and her family's disappearance. The story of the two families is interwoven throughout the novel and makes for a very interesting and engaging story. I really enjoyed the story and the relationship between both sets of sisters. The editing was good; I found few editing mistakes in the book. The characters were really interesting and captured my interest throughout the book. A really good book by a new to me author. I wish the story had not ended where it did because would love to know more about what happens between Jane and Henrietta and the family.

I did not finish this one. I don't read young adult fiction.

I absolutely loved The Den! The writing was well done and heart felt, and I loved the various narrations. It really shows how everyone has a different perspective even when they are given the same information. I did find adult Jane a bit annoying, but otherwise enjoyed all the characters. It seems a bit unrealistic that Henrietta could of gotten away with all that she did, but I am willing to suspend my sense of reality for the sake of fiction. This was a fast read and I think it easily could of added another section of narration by Elspeth and Claire detailing the return to Scotland. At least I know they made it back!

This was a touch underwhelming. It felt like two separate stories blended together sort of imperfectly. The setting and sense of place are absolutely there, however it has not met my standards for character studies. Overall a nice read, but not quite what I had hoped for.

Besides this book being very scattered and the story seeming disjointed, I still enjoyed this book. Growing up has it's pains no matter what time you live in. Loss and the feeling of not being whole pocks the lives of all the women in this book.

Very interesting and somewhat complex. The interwoven story of four sisters now and then. 150 years between when the legend began and when it was told...a must read!

I enjoyed reading this coming of age story. The voices of the characters are clear and believable. The setting of the story is mysterious and haunting. The author has created a world that draws the reader in and keeps her turning pages.

I fell immediately into this coming of age story from page 1. We first meet Jane and her sister Henrietta. Two teens left to fend for themselves as their mother is fully occupied in her art and her father is working as a chef. They adventure out into the woods by their house to the den. Their secret place where they dream as teen girls do. Henrietta meets Kaus and falls in love. Jane follows the couple and views their intimacy and becomes curious with what she sees. Henrietta finds she is pregnant and runs away to build a life for herself and her baby. We also meet sisters Elspeth and Claire 150 years earlier who live in Scotland. Elspeth becomes pregnant as well and is forced to leave for America with her husband. They build their life on the same property as Jane and Henrietta's family. Tragedy hits Elspeth's family. Her sister Claire begins to worry when she doesn't receive letters from her sister and sets out to find her. A legend is created and 150 years later it is told. This tale weaves its way throughout both sets of sisters' lives and is told in all their voices so beautifully. Thank you to First to Read for this advanced copy. I cannot wait to meet Abi Maxwell in May!


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