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Review: Where Echoes Die by Courtney Gould

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Ever since the death of her mother, Beck Birsching has struggled to stay on course. Ellery Birsching was an investigative reporter who spent years digging into a strange town in Arizona and never found the answers she craved. When a strange note arrives from her mother with the instructions to ‘Come find me,’ leading to the very town she investigated for so long, Beck travels south with her sister to Backravel, Arizona, where the past is more present than ever and the presence of their mother refuses to dissipate. Yet something strange is happening in Backravel. There are hardly any people present, no graveyards, and a strange center at the top of the hill offers treatment for any ailment. Everyone seems to be in a haze, and as Beck investigates the truth behind the town, its connection to her mother threatens to drag her under for good. 

Courtney Gould has written another sapphic masterpiece, about strange towns, sisterhood, and the relentless hold of grief. Wandering the backroads south to Arizona, Gould draws us into the mind of Beck Birsching, a grieving young girl trying to piece together the legacy of her deceased mother while struggling to keep herself together. The latest of Gould’s wonderfully weird locals is a seemingly innocent town that has ensnared many victims, drawing them into its thrall and feeding off of their desperation. Backravel Arizona becomes the site of emotional toil, eerily mirroring the mental state of our heroine and taking on a role that is truly terrifying the deeper Beck digs into her mother’s past. While many novels have endeavored to construct a web of claustrophobia within the narrative, none have managed it quite like this one. Right from the start there is a stark feeling of wrongness, that slowly closes in on the reader until they too are trapped in Backravel with Beck and the townspeople. Gould’s sophomore adds a moving investigation into sisterhood and motherhood. Two sisters that are divided not only in the way that they grieve, but in the way they viewed the profession of their late mother and how to navigate a future without her. I love a journey narrative, specifically ones that blend physical displacement with mental transformation. Where Echoes Die gives us exactly that, a trip between two sisters not ready to leave the past behind and who have yet to navigate a way out of their grief. Less at the forefront, but still poignant is the open discussion of queerness, seen through Beck’s coming out to her mother and other characters like Avery that were never given their time. Courtney Gould has gone two for two with books that have made me cry and I think this might be my favorite from her. Where Echoes Die breaches the past to prove the longevity of grief upon generations, and the universal struggle of the human experience. I’ll be keeping a weather eye out for more weird towns and badass Lesbians from Courtney Gould and basically anything she does next.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing this arc in exchange for an honest review.

Trigger warnings: death of a loved one, terminal illness, violence

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