In Josie and Jack, Kelly Braffet gives us a deliciously dark, suspenseful debut novel in the tradition of Patricia Highsmith.
Beautiful, brilliant, and inseparable, Josie and Jack Raeburn live a secluded, anarchic existence in their decaying western Pennsylvania home. The only adult in their lives is their rage-prone father, a physicist, whose erratic behavior finally drives them away. Without a moral compass to guide them, Jack leads Josie into a menacing world of wealth, eroticism, and betrayal. His sociopathic tendencies emerge, and soon Josie must decide which is stronger: the love and devotion she feels for her brother or her will to survive.
From its opening page to its shocking climax, this contemporary Hansel and Gretel story is compulsively readable and hugely entertaining.
Braffet's creepy, captivating debut has a quote from Hansel and Gretel as its epigram, but the novel owes as much to Flowers in the Attic as it does to the fairy tale. Josie and Jack Raeburn are inseparable teenagers virtually raising themselves in a decaying Pennsylvania mansion. Intermittently and bizarrely home-schooled by their abusive father, a mad physics professor who lives at his college during the week, the isolated siblings are left mostly to their own vices drinking, smoking and sleeping in the same bed. It's a weird but almost innocent existence, until Jack persuades Josie to seduce the pharmacist's son, Kevin, so they can score some drugs. When Josie falls for Kevin, Jack beats him senseless because he can't bear to share her. But because gorgeous, brilliant, magnetic Jack is the only person who's ever shown Josie love, she persists in her blind devotion to him. After a startling betrayal of their father, Jack and Josie leave home and leech off a string of women whom Jack easily, cruelly charms. But the women grow suspicious of the siblings' relationship, with good reason. Things can only end badly, of course, which happens when Lily, Jack's latest victim, confronts him about their atypical relationship. Braffet's sharp portrait of an asphyxiating love and a legacy of madness is darkly gothic and supremely readable.