The Breathless by Tara Goedjen has the creepy, ambient horror of family secrets blending with the supernatural. After the mysterious death of her big sister Ro, Mae finds a handwritten books with rituals and names of inductees and other information never meant for the light of day. She remembers Ro also reading from this strange little book, and finds their grandfather’s name inside. Meanwhile, Ro’s boyfriend returns, after a missing year he can’t explain, and wants to know where Ro is. There are shadows and secrets around every turn.
I can’t recommend this wholeheartedly because I couldn’t connect with any of the characters, and I think Southern Gothic only works if you care for the characters discovering family secrets and the dark supernatural. I didn’t find any of the family dynamics particularly compelling. Again, I think a story about a family who can’t speak about their dark tragedy only works if you care, if you see them doing quietly self-destructive things or if you see them trying and failing to communicate. This family felt more like Craig’s List roommates.
Still, there’s a lot of supernatural tension, and the plot kept me turning pages to see what would happen next to uncover the next secret.