I recently posted about my reading "green flags." Green flags are what draw you to something, as opposed to red flags which warn you to avoid something...get it, green flags...I know, I'm so witty. Any who, one of my reading green flags is when a plot involves cults or extreme religion. If I see the word "cult" in a book's synopsis, there is a 99.9% chance I will read it. That being said, when I heard that Ashley Winstead's sophomore novel The Last Housewife had a cult element, I knew I needed to get my hands on it. I was a fan of her debut novel, In My Dreams I Hold a Knife, so I had high hopes going into this one.
I will say, when I finished this book, I thought to myself, what the F did I just read?! I finished it a couple of weeks ago and I am still not sure I can formulate my thoughts into words, but I'll give it the old college try.
While in college, Shay Evans and her best friends met a captivating older man who seduces them and shows them a different way of life. By senior year, one of Shay's friends has committed suicide. Eight years later, Shay and her remaining friend have become estranged, but when she hears that she also has committed suicide and in a similar fashion, Shay suspects foul play. With the help of her school age friend turned true crime podcaster, they embark on uncovering what happened. They uncover a hidden cult, run by powerful men who do not want their secrets unearthed.
This book was weird.... I honestly am having a tough time deciding if I truly liked it or not. The content is dark and jarring at times. Reviewing The Last Housewife reminds me of when I read and reviewed My Dark Vanessa. Both books I could not put down. Total page turners. But the content was dark, heavy and made me feel a bit gross for reading it.
I loved Ashley Winstead's debut novel, In My Dreams I Hold a Knife, so when I heard she had a new book coming out this year, I was excited to get my hands on it. I was lucky enough to win a giveaway on Instagram, where I snagged an advanced copy. Winstead's former novel and the cult plot line, instantly drew me in, but as I read, I realized I was in for a wild ride....
Shay and her friends find each other under pretty graphic and horrible circumstances. They become extremely close and somewhat co-dependent, which plays into much how they find themselves each seduced by their roommate's father, who indoctrinates them into his misogynistic/sexist/abusive cult. I am talking a cult that treats women like objects whose main job on earth is to serve men. It gets weird and gross. I'm talking secret underground sex clubs, tons of graphic physical assault on women, plus a true crime podcast on top of it. There is a lot going on to put it mildly.
I'm still not sure what I think. There is no doubt this is a page turner, but the content makes it very hard to fully determine if I enjoyed it or not. The Last Housewife is a book where you need to be aware of the content/trigger warnings going in, because they are abundant. You have been warned.
Content warning: sexual assault, physical violence, suicide, self-harm, misogyny, gender essentialism, drug use
3 stars.... I think?? How do you rate something like this book? It played on the human instinct of morbid curiosity.
Other books by this author:
Comparable cult thrillers:
I'll Be You by Janelle Brown
Just Like Mother by Anne Heltzel