Welcome to Wisewood. We’ll keep your secrets, if you keep ours . . .
Kit Collins needs help. Hopeless and directionless, she signs up to Wisewood, a self-help retreat which promises a new way of life.
Natalie Collins has a terrible secret. A secret that would destroy her sister Kit. A secret that no one knows.
At least, that’s what she thinks.
But somehow, Wisewood knows everything.
And if Natalie doesn’t do exactly as they say, they’ll tell Kit the truth . . .
I was approved for an ARC of This Might Hurt on NetGalley a while ago. Whilst on Holiday I had a bit of a catch-up with NetGalley reads and this book was on my list. Many thanks to Penguin for the approval, and I hope you find my review satisfactory.
This Might Hurt is a psychological thriller telling the story of two sisters. Kit and Natalie. Kit is a troubled young woman looking for her chance to shine, while her older sister Natalie seems to have everything figured out. As such, when Kit hears about Wisewood, a self-help retreat that seems to have all the answers she could ever need, she signs up and leaves her life and family behind. Natalie has a secret of her own and when Wisewood knows all about it, she goes in search of her own answers.
The blurb/synopsis is what sold This Might Hurt to me. I was interested in the self-help angle of the story and the two main characters sounded like ones I could relate to. I was enraptured by the first half of the book; the lives of the characters being presented in an anecdotal manner without giving away the details of whose life was being documented. This caused a bit of confusion initially, but it was soon clear to see that there was another element at play. The introduction of this character and their life added another layer of interest to the novel and as their story progressed, the magic of the novel came to the fore.
The characters felt relatable and realistic. Kit came across as a troubled younger sibling; trying to grasp at anything that could improve her life. Natalie the older, somewhat overbearing sister that seems to know what’s best for everyone. With the other point of view character, there was some very troubling incidents that sets the tone for the characters demeanour as the story progresses. These difficult to digest scenes of child abuse are some of the best written in the book; they are endearing and help impart and understanding towards a character that we have no right giving sympathy too.
The timeline of the book jumps around a lot. There’s a past Point of View story running alongside the present day; these two timelines eventually end up meeting one another. However, the book isn’t without its confusion. It’s easy to see that the narrative it being intentionally blurry. Keeping the suspension going – especially with some of the topics and scenes being shown in the past – and the reader guessing what is happening in modern day Wisewood. I found this aspect of the novel to be really interesting; the character driven chapters were engaging and mysterious.
It’s a shame this air of mystery doesn’t last. When the novel focuses on Wisewood it feels like the story loses its heart and its direction. There is a cult-like element to those within Wisewood, where students become teachers and they have their own initiation ceremonies. Unfortunately, this aspect of the novel didn’t work for me. It pushed my suspension of disbelief a little bit too far and I couldn’t go along with the plot any more. I just didn’t believe what was happening on this solitary island. It’s a shame as prior to this I found the novel engaging. If a little slow.
The pacing of This Might Hurt is slow and sedate. I think this played a large part in my overall feelings towards the novel. Never once did I feel like there was any real feel of threat towards the characters. Yes, some depraved things happen to them and they all endure their own trials, but I just didn’t feel like they were ever in any danger. This really tied in as the book reaches its climax. I was expecting a final push towards a resolution, but, then it ended. I am still left scratching my head wondering what it was really all about. Yes, I understand the premise of the novel, I understand the story that I read, but somehow it never felt fully resolved. The open-ended ambiguity of this book didn’t help with the previously mentioned flaws.
Yet, Stephanie Wrobel can write beautifully. Every scene I read transported me to a new place. Each description I felt as keenly as the characters. All the locations are described really well and left me with such a vivid sense of imagery. I was captivated by Wrobel’s writing style, so I shall certainly be on the look out for her other books because while The Might Hurt didn’t work out for me in terms of narrative, it did almost everywhere else.
Overall my enjoyment of the book waned as it went on. Once the initial history of the mysterious third character and the abuse, where that led and who it was, was a great grip. However, once that mystery was solved and the rest of the story happened, things went rapidly downhill.
An interesting premise for the book that didn’t last the length of its pages. Abusive parenthood makes for a captivating read. Wisewood itself didn’t live up to the expectations that the book founds it on. Well written are the lead characters. Yet something goes a bit wrong half way through and This Might Hurt ends up falling a bit far from the mark.