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My Darling Girl


My Darling Girl

Jennifer McMahon has proven time and again that she is one of the top players in the psychological thriller game. However, lately her novels have taken more of a turn into the supernatural realm. Her previous book, THE CHILDREN ON THE HILL, was a terrifying story that called to mind FRANKENSTEIN.

With the release of her latest, MY DARLING GIRL, McMahon easily has penned her most supernatural tale yet. It also may be her finest effort and one of the best novels about demonic possession that I have ever read. It begins 37 years ago, when a young Alison O’Conner goes to bed with a knife that she calls “Descender” as a form of protection. The protection is not from some imaginary being or contrived ghost, but from her own mother, Mavis.

"By adding a supernatural element, McMahon has created a novel dripping in terror and suspense that you will not be able to hide from until the explosive finish."

In the present day, Alison is a highly successful illustrator and children’s book author who has made a life for herself despite her many years of sadistic abuse at the hands of her mother. Alison’s brother, Ben, has completely written off Mavis and wants nothing to do with her after her physical and mental abuse left him with a broken arm during his childhood. Alison is married to a great man named Mark, who lives for the Christmas season, decorating and his family. They have two wonderful daughters, Izzy and Olivia, and Alison has been able to shield them from the horrors of “Grandma.” However, that is all about to change in a big way.

Alison receives a phone call at her home in the beautiful and bucolic city of Burlington, Vermont, from her mother’s personal assistant, Paul. Mavis has contracted an aggressive form of cancer with no hope for a cure and is now in hospice care. Paul claims that Mavis has requested Alison’s presence, so she catches a flight to New York City to be by her side. When she lays eyes on Mavis, she still sees her mother from her youth, but now in a body crippled with pain and a brain addled by the disease that soon will claim her life.

Mavis does not want to spend her remaining time on earth being cared for by strangers and implies that she would prefer to die at home with family. So Alison makes the difficult decision to take Mavis to Burlington to meet her granddaughters at last and pass away on her own terms. Could she have some ulterior motive behind this request?

The supernatural part of this story is all about what is really behind Mavis’ eyes making the decisions for her. Alison awakens the repressed feelings she sometimes had as a child that Mavis was no longer her mother but something else. They come rushing back to her in a big way, with plenty of validity behind it. Mavis is unpredictable at best, with profane and evil statements being fired at Alison that chills her to her very soul. This is more than evident when her mother hisses at her: “You’re the one in danger. It’s always been you.”

Mavis is mostly able to contain herself when in the presence of Mark and her granddaughters, while Alison gets the brunt of her vitriol to the point that she begins to believe that Mavis could be possessed by a demon. When Paul comes out to visit, he leaves the house looking quite startled and tells Alison that whoever he just spent time with is not Mavis.

With MY DARLING GIRL, Jennifer McMahon has taken the demonic possession story and turned it inside out. The family dynamic involved, one that is deeply rooted in the decades of abuse by a parent, is horrific in and of itself. By adding a supernatural element, McMahon has created a novel dripping in terror and suspense that you will not be able to hide from until the explosive finish.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on October 7, 2023

My Darling Girl
by Jennifer McMahon