There’s a small pocket of authors whose books I always look forward to reading and whose stories never disappoint. Adrienne Young is one of those authors. Her latest, The Unmaking Of June Farrow, is a magical realism mystery with an achingly beautiful romantic thread set against the rural North Carolina backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains. But it’s more than just a mystery or a fantasy or a romance novel. This is an intergenerational story about the pull and importance of family, whatever shape that might take, whether blood or found.
In the small town of Jasper, flower farmer June Farrow is waiting for fate to find her. The Farrow women are known for many things: their resourcefulness, their independence, their flowers – and a curse that has haunted them for generations. June has always dreaded the madness that led to her mother’s mysterious disappearance. Brought up by her grandmother, she’s lived in fear of the future. Now that same strange, secret unravelling of the mind is happening to June too, and when her grandmother dies, June follows a series of clues that link her mother’s disappearance to the town’s dark history.
Drawn towards a red door that appears out of thin air, June crosses a threshold that takes her on a journey that will change not only her present, but her past and future too. Torn between realities and timelines, June finds herself entangled in a star-crossed love with the power to heal her heart, and a murder investigation with the power to destroy everything she holds dear. As the mysteries of the family curse slowly reveal themselves, June will arrive at a crossroad where she must choose which life she wants once and for all.
I had only one ambition in my simply built life, and that was to be sure the Farrow curse would end with me. It was as good a place as any to end a story. I wasn’t the first Farrow, but I would be the last.”
The Unmaking of June Farrow is the kind of novel that wraps itself around your heart and refuses to let go. It’s full of authentic and exquisitely written characters who love fiercely and whose loyalty transcends the very boundaries of time. What starts as a slow burn mystery evolves into a magic infused historical time-travel tale that transports readers to a small town rife with prejudice and superstition. It has that same second-chance romance element that made Young’s previous book, Spells for Forgetting, such an affecting and atmospheric novel too.
Though the story is told entirely through June’s perspective, Young’s skilful, assured writing still allows readers to understand the hearts and minds of the people who fill our broken central character’s life. And whilst June might begin the book by unravelling, this is truly a story of a woman putting the pieces of her fractured life back together again. It’s a beautiful, heartrending journey, exploring the intrinsic pull of love, both marital and maternal. It helps that there’s such a clear sense of time and place; you feel as if you’re living every emotionally charged second with these characters.
The Unmaking of June Farrow feels both intimate and cinematic; a small town mystery with a mind-bending alternate timeline twist. It takes an accomplished writer to make such a complex story flow so seamlessly and feel so possible at the same time. Another heart-shattering, life-affirming book from Adrienne Young.
The Unmaking of June Farrow was published by Quercus on 17 October 2023