Book Reviews

Book Review: The Haunting of Alejandra

By V. Castro

Publication Date: April 18, 2023

262 Pages

Alejandra despairs of being the mother her children need her to be and at the same time, is drowning in her identity of only wife and mother.  Her darkness has gone to the depths of wanting to die, egged on by a voice and phantom encouraging her to end her worthless life.  In desperation, Alejandra sees a therapist and learns of centuries of family trauma she’s carrying.  Is this simply a genetic history or is it La Llorona, a demon who has cursed the women in her family?  If this demon is real, how can Alejandra stop it from haunting her daughter, when she doesn’t have the courage to save herself?

The premise is amazing.  Family trauma, Mexican folklore, and women’s identity.  In the first paragraph we see Alejandra having a breakdown in the shower and the atmosphere is deliciously dark, with words like blood, knives, and carving peppered throughout.  I was really prepared for something spectacular.  Then her peevish husband banged on the door for her to make dinner because he and the children were hungry, and everything went downhill from there.

This is billed as horror but it’s really half horror, half women’s fiction. And the horror part isn’t scary.  The demon is creepy enough but it’s described in exactly the same fashion every time someone sees it, so the shock factor wears off quickly.  The author seems to depend on blood and a little gore for the most part.

“The Haunting of Alejandra” interpreted by Wombo Dream

The main problem I had with this book was the execution.  The dialogue was stilted, the characters were flat (some to the point of being cartoonish), and despite the story being told in multiple points of view and multiple time periods, everyone sounded the same.  Honestly, the curse sounded a lot like serious depression and at times I wondered if the demon was a metaphor, then I decided I was reading into it too much.  Despite being told over and over again exactly how Alejandra felt (and I mean that literally; I’m pretty sure “felt” is the most used word in this novel), I never had a grasp of her.  Everyone’s reactions to circumstances felt either contrived, nonsensical, or jumped all over the place.  Honestly, it was all a bit of a mess.

I realize this was an ARC copy and things will change before publication.  I expect that with the occasional typo but this book read like it was an early draft.  Like the pacing and plot holes still needed to be smoothed out and the characters fleshed out.  Not like a book about to be published.

I won’t be belabor this anymore.  I don’t like to give critical reviews but I had a hard time finishing this one.  I wavered between 2 stars and 1.5 stars so in the end, I split the difference.

Final rating: 1.75 stars ⭐+

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine for providing the ARC ebook.  I’ve left my review honestly and voluntarily.

Until next time, thank you for visiting.

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