"Our life here is just like an old horror movie," muses the loquacious, inscrutable Raquel Motherwell near the end of Rebecca Wolff's debut novel, The Beginners. "It's like the skeleton of the horror novel hanging in the closet with all the suits and dresses that we never wear. Young couple moves to small New England town. House drafty, locals suspicious. Strange friends, omens of doom. Unreliable narrator. Cows lowing in the fields, arcane pagan religious festivals."
The Beginners does play tantalizingly on Raquel's friendly and familiar formula for a hair-raising tale, though the reader learns early on that one shouldn't trust any story Raquel's telling. We also can't trust her husband, Theo. And to make matters worse, the unreliable narrator that Raquel so self-referentially mentions is actually neither Raquel nor Theo. That distinction belongs to Ginger Pritt, the precocious fifteen-year-old who guides us along her dreamy and sometimes sinister path of awakening in the tiny Massachusetts town of Wick.