I read this in a couple of hours during a long flight from London to Phoenix a few weeks ago.
Once I started, I couldn't put it down. I'm not sure what I was expecting with this one, I certainly wasn't expecting to be anywhere near as horrific as it was. It tells the story of 16 year old Amanda and her struggling family in a historical setting. The story starts with Amanda having been seeing a boy, Henry for a while, they have been sexually involved for some time and she appears to be quite enamoured with him. Until she finds she's pregnant. Given the historical setting and the religious undertones in the novel, Amanda is quite freaked out. She's terrified of her family finding out...one more mouth to feed in an already full family and difficult situation.
The setting is brutal, blunt and delightfully atmospheric. Amanda's father moves the whole family down from their mountain cabin, across the open plains to find a new homestead for them. There's a wonderful family dynamic in the novel, though not without problems. Something terrible has happened the previous winter, and is referenced a lot, though its not until much later in the novel that the reader finds out. All we know is something bad happened, and Amanda is very haunted by it. Also, her baby sister Hannah, was born that winter, though Hannah was born deaf and blind and screams and cries a lot and puts a host of added strain on the family.
Amanda is torn between helping her family and keeping her pregnancy a secret and its a struggle. Not helped by the long journey down the mountain to the new homestead. The father's determination and resilience is quite impressive in the face of so many different troubles. He's very religious and seems to find strength in that no matter what. The younger siblings are best friends, and the other sibling not quite as old as Amanda but older than the children, Emily (I think or it might be Emma, can't remember off the top of my head) was always very close to Amanda, and their friendship is strained by the Amanda's secret pregnancy. Amanda can't tell Emily, but Emily knows something wrong.
They find an unoccupied cabin to set up as their homestead. Right off there's something not right about it, the place is a mess and its got a whole host of bloodstains inside. Instead of saying a massive no and moving on, Amanda's father decides this is where they will stay and he will fix the place up. Which the family do. From them on things go from creepy to out right frightening. Not recapping much as its too spoilery from this point on.
What the family go through is pretty horrific and it gets harder and harder to tell the difference between is this really happening or is Amanda simply losing her mind due to the move and the unplanned pregnancy which winds up having terrifying consequences. Family stress goes from bad to worse as things keep happening. Not helped by the arrival of a couple of new comers, as one would hope, a boy Emily's age and his father, a doctor.
It gets gorier as the novel progresses. Though in spite of the terror, Amanda shows some remarkable strength as she has to pull it together to figure out how to save what's left of her family by the time the truth is revealed. Complete with an ending to send shivers down your spine as well.
A fantastic spooky read.