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Katy Logan wasn’t quite sure why she left her finance career in the big city to marry religion professor Gordon Smith and move to the tiny Appalachian community of Solom.

Maybe she just wanted to get her 13-year-old daughter Jett away from the drugs and bad influences. Maybe she wanted to escape from the memories of her first husband. Or perhaps she was enchanted by the promise of an idyllic life on the farm that has been in Gordon’s family for 150 years.

But the move has been anything but stress-free, because the man she married seems more interested in the region’s rural Baptist sects than in his new wife. The Smith family secrets run deep: Gordon teases Katy and Jett with a story about a wicked scarecrow that comes in from the fields at night to slake an unnatural thirst. Gordon’s great-grandfather was a horseback preacher who mysteriously disappeared while on a mission one wintry night, and some say a rival preacher did him in.

Gordon’s first wife Rebecca died under equally mysterious circumstances, and Katy’s starting to believe Rebecca’s spirit is still in the house. The scent of lilacs drifts across the kitchen, doors slam shut with no one else home, and the kitchen curtains flutter even when the windows are closed. Katy becomes obsessed with Rebecca’s recipes and clothes, and she finds herself driven to find out more about Rebecca to emulate her and therefore please Gordon. To make matters worse, Gordon’s herd of goats watches Katy every time she leaves the house, fixing their rectangular pupils on her as if waiting for some silent command.

Jett is worried about Mom, but she has worries of her own. A Goth girl in a rural elementary school, she gets teased for being different. She misses her dad, and feels guilty because her drug abuse forced Mom to enter a hasty marriage with Gordon. The pressure leads her back to drugs despite her promise to Mom. Now she fears the drugs are blowing her mind. She’s starting to hallucinate, and the goats, scarecrows, and a strange man in a black hat are all part of her madness.

But the residents of Solom know all about the man in the black hat. They whisper the legends around the pot-bellied stove at the general store, they pray for protection from him in their little white churches, they think about him as they gather hay, harvest corn, and work their gardens. The brave ones talk about him, believing him dead and buried, but nobody dares to utter his name.

The Reverend Harmon Smith has come back more than century after his last missionary trip, and he has unfinished business. But first Katy and Jett must be brought into the family, and the farm must be prepared to welcome him home. Gordon has been denying his heritage, but now it’s time to choose sides. Does he protect the ones he loves, or surrender to the ancestral urge for revenge?

And can Katy and Jett forge a bond before night falls on Solom forever?

Author's preferred edition of 2006 mass market paperback The Farm


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