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The Unmaking of June Farrow


The Unmaking of June Farrow

SPELLS FOR FORGETTING was praised for its atmospheric magic, and now Adrienne Young is back with THE UNMAKING OF JUNE FARROW. In penning yet another lush, magical novel that considers questions of feminism and lineage, Young cements herself as a champion of witchy, autumnal fantasies.

To the town of Jasper, North Carolina, June Farrow was first, and perhaps best, known as the Market Street Baby. Discovered in an alley on October 2, 1989, June was immediately identified as the daughter of Susanna, a mentally ill woman who had disappeared months into her pregnancy. No sign of her missing mother ever appeared, and June was left to be raised by her grandmother, Margaret. Since then, June has carried not just the legacy of the last piece of evidence of her mother, but the same legacy that all Farrow women have carried: one of a botanist’s touch, an aloofness that has kept them apart from the town and, of course, the madness that eventually consumes each woman in the Farrow line.

"THE UNMAKING OF JUNE FARROW is everything readers love about Adrienne Young’s works, with an ambitious plot technique that allows her themes of fate and destiny to soar."

June is the last living Farrow on earth --- and, if she has anything to say about it, the last Farrow ever. After growing up with an empty hole where her mother should be and becoming her grandmother’s full-time caregiver as she descended into madness, June knows that she cannot fall in love or bear children without giving the Farrow family curse even more room to grow and ruin lives. Her family’s legacy is well known to Jasper, and June has even made plans with her pseudo-aunt, Birdie, and her best friend, Mason, for when the time comes. There’s just one secret: one year ago, long before her grandmother died, June began having visual and auditory hallucinations, including four recurring ones: the dark figure of a man with searing eyes, smoking a cigarette; a reddish-brown horse crossing her path; a red door; and the voice of a man saying her name.

June knows she must soon reveal that her own time has come, but first she receives a mysterious envelope addressed to her by her grandmother only two days before her death. In it is a photo dated 1911 that portrays Nathaniel Rutherford, a famous figure in Jasper. Nathaniel, a minister, was brutally murdered at the river, his case left cold with no answers despite it being the first and only homicide in Jasper’s history. In the photograph, Nathaniel holds a beautiful woman close. She wears the dated clothes of the early 1900s, yet her face is the same one that June has looked for in every crowd and around every corner: that of her own mother. The similarity is uncanny, but so is the insinuation: Susanna was alive --- and married --- long before she even could have been born.

As June investigates the connection between her family and Nathaniel, the corners of her world start to slip and fray. Birdie, who has lived with June and her grandmother since the death of her husband, catches on and tells June that she is not losing herself to madness but rather remembering. The next time she sees the door, she must enter it. When June does, she is transported to 1951 and sees a man named Eamon, who tells her that she knows him…just not yet. As June meets her female ancestors, including her teenage grandmother, she discovers that this is not her first visit. The last time she was there, she made more than a few enemies, including her own family. It soon becomes obvious that June has somehow disrupted the timelines of her life. If she does not discover how and why, or the connection between her, her mother’s disappearance and the minister’s murder, she may unmake herself…and everyone she loves.

Although sunny North Carolina is a far cry from the rainy West Coast setting of SPELLS FOR FORGETTING, Young's ability to build a luscious, verdant world is unparalleled. Rather than populating THE UNMAKING OF JUNE FARROW with ancient trees, she fills the fields and meadows of June’s world with exotic, fragrant flowers, a callback to the gifts of the Farrow women. At 34, June is an easy protagonist to root for: she is tired of carrying her family’s dark legacy and terrified of her own descent into madness, but she is also strong, curious and unrelenting in her search for answers. The women of her family are all equally relatable and compelling, another trademark of Young’s matrilineal themes.

It’s not a spoiler to say that the book relies heavily on time travel. While the mechanics and magic of this time travel are some of its weaker elements, often complicated yet inconsistent, the rest of Young’s plot, characterizations and themes are so strong that they suspend your disbelief. This allows the novel’s more magical and romantic moments to carry the weight of the narrative.

THE UNMAKING OF JUNE FARROW is everything readers love about Adrienne Young’s works, with an ambitious plot technique that allows her themes of fate and destiny to soar.

Reviewed by Rebecca Munro on November 3, 2023

The Unmaking of June Farrow
by Adrienne Young