In The Evening Spider, two young mothers live over a hundred years apart in the same house. In 2014, Abby Bernacki, a history teacher on maternity leave, begins to hear strange sounds through her baby daughter’s monitor at night. At the same time, Abby increasingly recalls her college roommate, who Abby found dead. Sensing something off in the house but afraid to talk to her husband, Abby begins to research while becoming increasingly erratic. She discovers that a criminal lawyer, his young wife, and their baby daughter lived in the house in 1887. The young wife, Frances Barnett, becomes obsessed with two famous murder trials until her husband eventually commits her to a lunatic asylum.
Told through a point of view that revolves between Abby and Frances, Emily Arsenault seamlessly weaves the diverse story lines, leaving the reader utterly intrigued until the last page. She comprehends the increased sensitivity that can accompany new motherhood and amplifies it just enough to make her main characters’ mental states understandable. Finally, Arsenault relies on the supernatural to spice her novel, but keeps it utterly grounded in the believable. Overall, this is an excellent novel that should not be missed.
(Reviewed in exchange for a copy of the book in Manhattan Book Review.)