In Rebecca Wolff‘s stunning new coming of age novel, The Beginners, fifteen-year-old Ginger Pritt is in a precarious place the summer before her senior year. Boys and the languid exploration of her burgeoning sexuality have set her adrift in her friendship with best friend Cherry, and a pervasive and heavy grief blankets and isolates her from her family. When Raquel and Theo Motherwell show up in Ginger’s beautiful, but dying, Massachusetts town, she is dazzled by the opportunity to befriend the enigmatic couple. Spending more and more time with the Motherwells, Ginger imaginatively explores the dark history of the town – which had succumbed to the hysterics of the Salem Witch Trials, surrounding towns purposely submerged in the local river, and the questionable intentions of the hypnotic couple holding her deeply in thrall.
Mesmerizing from the beginning, this strange little book is full of quiet and creepy atmosphere as it builds in intensity toward its mysterious and ambiguous climax. Steeped in language and imagery both lush and provocative, and always rich and beautiful, The Beginners provides full immersion into Ginger’s often unreliable perspective as she retrospectively examines her transition into the complexities of adulthood from the footing of a naïve and often overlooked child. Since it’s easy to see the initial appeal and seeming sophistication of the erudite and relentlessly thoughtful Motherwells, readers have to decide the culpability Ginger plays in the ensuing events. A slow burn, this is a satisfying read even if full comprehension fails to coincide with the novel’s end. Highly recommended.