Marlena is one of those novels that has a “stock plot”. Written from Cat’s perspective as her mother exiles them to a rural town. We love her lonely life until she befriends her intoxicating neighbor, Marlena. Beautiful, intense and overwhelming Cat falls under her spell and is drawn into her upside down life. That is until Marlena is found dead in the woods. The novel is split between them and now as Cat is grown up, living in the city and suddenly confronted by a ghost from that past.
While the plot may be stock, what sets this novel apart is the skill in the execution. A perfect example of why I can take or leave plot but crave depth to the characters and writing that draws me in. Buntin’s writing in Marlena is sublime. I took note of many passages throughout the novel, full of beauty and raw honesty. The characters are suitably compelling and keep the reader engaged. The pacing was excellent with hints of mystery and an underlying menace.
I enjoyed the use of switching between time points throughout the novel, slowly revealing more of the past and the present and how it shaped our protagonist, Cat. Memorable and relatable, Marlena is well worth delving into and getting lost in.