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The Girls in the Cabin - Caleb Stephens (Nina)

Updated: Apr 2

Having read (and loved) several of Caleb’s stories in different anthologies and his collection, If Only a Heart and Other Tales of Terror, I came into this book with high expectations and a suspicion that it would break my heart. Even so, I was not expecting this book to grab me by the throat and shatter my heart the way that it did. I went in blind, knowing nothing about the story other than the title and this book took me for a ride. Caleb has proven once again that he is a master at writing about trauma and grief: how it can present in different people, the way it permeates their lives, and influences their actions.

If you’re like me and love high-tension thrillers with blood-curdling scenes, this is the book for you. The story is told from multiple points of view and in two different timelines that eventually converge. I was impressed by how well the author coordinated the chapters between so many POVs and distinct timelines without making the story confusing. Although it’s a little slow in the beginning, after page fifty the pace picks up and it becomes almost impossible to put the book down as you become more and more desperate for the characters and to find out what’s really going on. I was surprised when I added this on Goodreads and found out it was over 300 pages, the story had such a nice flow that it didn’t drag on at certain points during the middle (a common issue with longer books). It’s rare for me to care as much for the emotional aspect of a thriller, usually only focusing on the mystery. However, Caleb has a way of writing characters so complex, of articulating those characters’ emotional landscapes so well that it becomes impossible to not get attached to them.

My favorite thing about The Girls in the Cabin is that, at its core, it’s a novel about redemption. It's about breaking generational cycles of abuse and pain, recognizing the mistakes that were made along the way, and atoning for those mistakes. In the beginning, I believed that there was no way I’d forgive a particular character for a series of hurtful actions they’d taken in the past, but as the story progressed I could see them changing and making up for their mistakes. By the end, I had forgiven him alongside the character they’d hurt and I have no words for how much hope that gave me. If you’re looking for a thriller that goes above and beyond, this is the book for you.

Finally, I feel the need to highlight that this novel is extremely heavy. It touches on several painful topics, which made it a challenging read emotionally to the point where I had to take breaks for a day or two even though I desperately wanted to find out what would happen next. Furthermore, The Girls in the Cabin is, and I cannot stress this enough, graphic and gory. There are some scenes in this book that would fit right in with a slasher movie, so if this is not something you’re comfortable with it’d be best for you not to pick this up. I’ve compiled a list of trigger warnings at the end of this review for those who wish to know more about what type of violence is depicted in this novel. Please keep in mind that some of the TWs may give away certain plot elements, so read them at your own discretion.

Trigger Warnings: mentions/description of rape, kidnapping and abduction, miscarriages, child abuse, torture, gore, domestic abuse, cancer, and murder.

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