From the New York Times bestselling authors of Welcome to Night Vale and It Devours! and the creators of the hit podcast, comes a new novel set in the world of Night Vale and beyond.
In the town of Night Vale, there’s a faceless old woman who secretly lives in everyone’s home, but no one knows how she got there or where she came from…until now. Told in a series of eerie flashbacks, the story of The Faceless Old Woman goes back centuries to reveal an initially blissful and then tragic childhood on a Mediterranean Estate in the early nineteenth century, her rise in the criminal underworld of Europe, a nautical adventure with a mysterious organization of smugglers, her plot for revenge on the ones who betrayed her, and ultimately her death and its aftermath, as her spirit travels the world for decades until settling in modern-day Night Vale.
Interspersed throughout is a present-day story in Night Vale, as The Faceless Old Woman guides, haunts, and sabotages a man named Craig. In the end, her current day dealings with Craig and her swashbuckling history in nineteenth century Europe will come together in the most unexpected and horrifying way.
Part The Haunting of Hill House, part The Count of Monte Cristo, and 100% about a faceless old woman who secretly lives in your home.
The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home is a ghost story-turned-memoir. It is told from the perspective of the Old Woman, and is written in autobiographical style. This is my first Night Vale experience, and I was absolutely fascinated by the story authors Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor put together.
Before I started writing this review, I spent 15 minutes skimming the book. I had read it 2 weeks ago, and, while I absolutely loved it, I have read several more books since and a few of the details eluded me. But, mostly, I was looking for a reference to the Old Woman’s name. I never found it. Maybe it is because I was skimming quickly, or maybe we never learn her name, but either way I think that demonstrates the genius of this book. While the narrative focuses on her story, she ends up as faceless for a reason. That is kind of the point, and Fink and Cranor managed to get that point across quite successfully.
That is not to say the story itself is not memorable. The Old Woman lives a really interesting life. She experiences love, loss, war and peace. She has epic sea battles, and makes (and loses) friends and family. The Old Woman’s history is so detailed and full of adventure, making it really enthralling. The reader learns about the entire scope of her life (and after); from child to Faceless Old Woman and everything in-between. Her thoughts, feelings, motives, and purposes. We come to understand everything there is to know about the Old Woman and how she ended up where she is. And yet I do not know her name!
There is a lot to say about the tone of the writing, too. Most of the book is about the Old Woman’s past and how she came to be, but the story starts in present day as a kind of ghost story that gives off super creepy vibes. This is such a great part of the book, because even as the authors come back to present-day every once in a while, the Old Woman’s motivations for being here are kept hidden until the very end. So, while the reader is experiencing this interesting adventure, it is told under the backdrop of a secondary narrative, as well, that is creepy and mysterious. This duality creates overlapping tension that drives the story.
The only small drawback to me was near the end of the book where parts of her history are detailed in short form. I thought this could have been done a little better. The narrative here felt rushed, but I do not ding it too much for that. I can see there is something very particular the authors are going for here, and I applaud the purposeful writing.
And that really is the overarching theme of this book to me: purposeful writing. The Faceless Old Woman who Secretly Lives in Your Home is phenomenal. Every chapter, every paragraph, every sentence and word is meaningful. Perfectly placed with exacting intent. I could not put it down, and I recommend to fans of fantasy. If you do learn her name, though, please drop me a line.