Creatures of Want and Ruin is a sex-positive historical magical realism novel set in the roaring twenties. Creatures of Want & Ruin is apparently a sequel to Creatures of Will and Temper but stands alone perfectly. (I have not read Creatures of Will and Temper and never felt like I had missed anything.)
Amityville baywoman Ellie West fishes by day and bootlegs moonshine by night. It’s dangerous work under Prohibition–independent operators like her are despised by federal agents and mobsters alike–but Ellie’s brother was accepted to college and Ellie’s desperate to see him go. So desperate that when wealthy strangers ask her to procure libations for an extravagant party Ellie sells them everything she has, including some booze she acquired under unusual circumstances.
What Ellie doesn’t know is that this booze is special. Distilled from foul mushrooms by a cult of diabolists, those who drink it see terrible things–like the destruction of Long Island in fire and flood. The cult is masquerading as a church promising salvation through temperance and a return to “the good old days,” so it’s hard for Ellie to take a stand against them, especially when her father joins, but Ellie loves Long Island, and she loves her family, and she’ll do whatever it takes to ensure neither is torn apart.
Creatures of Want and Ruin is a book about watching people change around you. That bewildering feeling where you turn around and suddenly people you thought you knew are almost strangers and the dawning horror that when you give it some thought, you can see the slow evolution of how they came to be this way, but there wasn’t anything you could do to stop it.
Ellie is a strong woman, working hard to put her brother through medical school. She fishes and crabs and runs liquor on the side. Her father surprises her one day by spouting terrible things about how women should be in the home not working and her shock is palpable – after all, he taught her everything she knows.
Fin is the rich wife of a new money man who quits his law job to be a party boy. Her friends are perfectly happy to while away the hours having a grand old time and Fin can’t seem to go along with it all. She misses philanthropy and making a difference. Over the course of the story, she has to confront both her own privilege and her own happiness.
Creatures of Want and Ruin may be set in the roaring twenties, but it felt like it was mirroring political feelings today. One day you know someone and then suddenly they start spouting things that feel uncharacteristic and suddenly you question if you ever really knew them at all or if they have been possessed.
Creatures of Want and Ruin is on shelves now!
Thank you to John Joseph Adams/Mariner Books for providing me with an eARC in exchange for my honest review.