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Don't Eat the Pie

Published by Rising Action
Distributed by Simon & Schuster

LIST PRICE $24.99

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About The Book

In DON'T EAT THE PIE, readers are transported to the hauntingly picturesque Camillia Island, where gothic horror meets family drama, unraveling the sinister secrets behind a mother and daughter's summer that promises to be as unsettling as it is compelling for fans of Shirley Jackson and Daphne du Maurier.

Newlywed Sam has always wanted to be a part of a normal happy family.

When her mother-in-law falls ill, Sam dutifully moves her family to Edenic Camillia Island to care for her. The island residents, namely the older women, welcome Sam and her daughter Emma with open arms, endless cocktails, and plenty of superstition.

It seems perfect until it’s not. The house next to her mother-in-law’s is creepy—not only that, it’s where Ben’s first wife died.

Sam’s teen daughter Emma isn’t interested in spending the summer in Camillia. It gets even worse when Emma starts to see things—knowing that there are ghosts trying to warn her of something, but what?

Despite Emma’s pleas, Sam doesn’t want to rock the boat with her new family. Emma won’t pretend nothing is happening, especially as the messages become more grim and frequent. What secrets are buried on Camillia Island? And why are all the residents keen on keeping them quiet?

Content Warnings: abuse/domestic violence, suicide, unauthorized medical procedures, pregnancy complications, car accident

Excerpt

THE WEDDING - EMMA

MAY 31

My fingers are frozen, numb, aching. I keep them beneath the faucet a little longer than necessary and avoid eye contact with the women in the crowded bathroom. The marble walls make everything echo. I wish they would soundproof public restrooms.

How does one person even know this many people? Let alone want them to be at their wedding? What has Mom gotten us into?

“She’s prettier than the other wife,” a woman says under her breath, pulling lipstick from her beaded clutch and fixing her makeup in the mirror. Her lips are bright pink, Barbie chic.

“Don’t say that. Krysten was beautiful. So tragic what happened to her. But it’s nice to see Ben happy, isn’t it?” another woman says. She’s rail thin, with wavy blonde locks draping her shoulders onto her blue dress. The women’s hips sway in unison as the pair leaves the bathroom.

That’s a lovely way to speak of the dead.

Dear God or the universe or whatever—please don’t let me be like them. No matter how badly Mom wants us to fit in, I solemnly swear when I’m an adult I will not become a gossiping waif at a wedding. Amen.

“Hey, you okay, Emma?” Aunt Becca comes out of the stall directly behind me and takes over the sink I’m standing in front of.

“Yeah, just … how does Ben know all these people? Do you know all these people?”

Becca laughs. “I do not.”

She dries her hands, and I follow her back into the hall. The ceiling reaches up several floors with giant, arched glass doors lining an entire wall. Framed by sheer white drapes that move like waves in the spring breeze, the doors are open to the lawn outside.

“I know this is weird for you, suddenly being a part of a different family. It’s weird for me too, but in a whole different way because I go home with Jax to our little bungalow.” Aunt Becca swipes a glass of champagne off a server’s tray and takes a sip.

“And I’m being indoctrinated into some yuppie cult.” I turn toward her, grabbing her hand. I put my puppy dog eyes in full swing. “Can’t you just kidnap me so I can live with you?”

“C’mon.” She pulls me out the doorway onto the marble steps that lead down to the party. Tables draped in white chiffon dot the mossy green lawn. A perfect scene that suits Ben and his family—us, not so much. Becca extends her arm, pointing to Mom, who is laughing with another guest. “Your mom is so happy. I haven’t seen her like this since the moment she saw you for the first time. She’s been with some bad apples, but Ben’s a golden one.”

I seriously doubt Mom would be happy to see me. How could she be after what she’s been through? Mom loves me, but I know it was hard on her, having me. I don’t really know the whole story between her and Dad. Only that he was a really bad guy and that having me almost killed her. I almost killed her.

Ben, however, makes her light up like nothing else ever has—including me. I don’t blame her, not exactly. If I’m going to have any adult male living under the same roof as me, I’m happy it’ll be Ben. He doesn’t try to be my dad. His dad jokes aren’t even that bad.

“I know … I know. It’s so weird,” I say, looking around at the other girls. They look like Instagram models, and even without filters they still have flawless skin. “I don’t know how I’ll fit in. …I’m not even sure I want to.”

“Your mom feels the exact same way, believe me. We aren’t used to this shit.” Aunt Becca takes another sip from her champagne glass. “You can do it together. You’ve done everything else together.”

“Yeah, yeah.” I sigh, crossing my arms over my chest. We’ve done everything together, but sometimes I wish she was more of a mom than a friend who has complete power over my life. I turn and grab a glass of champagne from the server passing by.

“Hah! I don’t feel that bad for you, kid.” Aunt Becca takes the flute from me and starts to drink it herself. “Go find Jax and Hannah. Go be kids. Have fun.”

“Alright. Promise you guys will visit?”

“Every chance we get. Ben has kindly offered the use of his frequent flier miles. We’ll probably see each other more than ever.” She smiles, but my heart twists. Maybe she’s right, but I’m leaving Hannah behind, school behind, the place I grew up behind. My life. Aunt Becca’s right: Mom is happy. She glows around Ben, and they get each other. It’s gross. They laugh at everything the other one says. Financially, we won’t have to struggle anymore, either. Mom can finally focus on the things that make her happy instead of picking up extra shifts at the restaurant.

Except, everything will be different now. Sometimes I wonder if she even thinks of me at all. Jax and I have grown up as siblings more than cousins. It feels weird when we don’t see each other for any longer than a couple of days.

“Emma!” A saccharine southern drawl breaks into my thoughts. It’s Nadine, Ben’s mom. Hannah and Jax are laughing at something across the lawn by the water. Get me out of here. “Emma, honey, can you come over here? I gotta introduce you to my girls.” A gaggle of geese cackle at the table.

“Sure …” I march toward them, and the women turn, drinks in hand, to stare at me.

“Girls, this is Samantha’s little girl, Emma. Isn’t she beautiful?” Nadine rises from her seat. She’s older than she looks and is thin and blonde with snow-white skin. Mom says she used to be an actress. She pinches at my cream silk blouse and puts a hand on my waist. I move a little to the right, trying not to shudder.

“Nice to meet you dear, I’m Ginny. I live right across from Nadine on the island. I’m sure we’ll get to know each other over the summer.” The kind-faced older woman sticks her hand out to shake mine. The skin on her hands is spotted and wrinkly, her nails the same bright pink as her lips. She doesn’t have a southern accent like Nadine.

“It’s nice to meet you,” I say. “Gosh, your dress is so cool. I’ve never seen anything like it.” I jealously eye the black lace gown with feathers woven into its fabric. Peacock feather earrings dangle from her sagging lobes.

“Oh! This old thing. I got it traveling years ago. It’s a long story for another time, but when you come to visit, I’ll let you in on everything,” Ginny says, her voice diving to a whisper.

“Even if you’re not interested,” Nadine says.

“Sorry, doll, you’re in the family now.” Ginny chuckles. “We’re a package deal.” They all laugh. I laugh too, even though I don't really get the joke, hoping they’ll move onto something else—someone else. I feel naked with their eyes on me. “It’ll be great spending so much time with you all this summer.”

“My mom must not have mentioned it.” Of course, she didn’t, why would she let me in on her grand plan for our summer? I’m an afterthought now. “She said they’d be looking for a new place right after the honeymoon.”

“Oh, yes.” Nadine waves her hand. “Don’t worry, it’s only an old woman’s hope.” She grabs my hand, and her long, polished nails scratch my wrist. “I do hope we get to know each other better and when you do come to visit, you’ll entertain some old ladies. We can teach you gin rummy.”

The women nod in agreement.

Nadine pulls me in for a hug. She’s warm but all angles, bony and sharp. Over her shoulder, I catch Mom watching us, a smile curving her lips. Ben nuzzles her cheek with his. Gag.

“I would be happy to learn, Nadine, and I can teach you Euchre, as my mom taught me how. It’s a Michigan thing,” I add. “It gets real dicey in our family. You’ll like it.”

Nadine leans back and claps her hands together, shaking the gold bracelets on her wrists. “I’d be delighted. Now, go enjoy your time with your friends.”

I let out a little laugh and curtsy, pushing the charm to the max. I overheard Mom earlier, talking to Aunt Becca about how happy she was to finally be a part of a real family. A normal family. She was angry at Grandma for refusing to come and support her. It feels like she wants to leave us all behind and move on.

“Oh, sweet thing, wait a second. I almost forgot!” Nadine says, walking towards me on the lawn, holding a piece of paper in her hand. “This letter came for you at the apartment. I had to run over there for your mom earlier to grab her some bobby pins.”

The letter is addressed to me, with no return address.

“Thanks, Nadine,” I say, stashing the letter away in my front pocket to read later.

I take off my heeled sandals and run barefoot across the perfectly mowed, perfectly green, perfectly soft grass. I wonder if it’s even real.

“Emma!” Jax shouts from the edge of the water. “Come over here! You gotta see this!” I push myself between Jax and Hannah to look over the railing. The waterline is made up of broken pieces of concrete stacked on each other.

On top of the concrete slab is a pile of slithering, worm-like things.

“Eww, what is that?” I ask, straining to see.

“I don’t know,” Hannah says. “Jax noticed it a minute ago, and we’ve been kind of staring at it since, wondering when it’s going to stop.”

“Maybe it’s some kind of sea creature washed up to shore,” Jax says, brushing his curly brown hair out of his eyes.

“You mean lake creature,” I interject.

“Yeah, lake creature.” He scratches his head and grimaces. “No, that's not a creature, it's a bunch.”

“What do you mean?” asks Hannah.

“It’s snakes,” Jax says. “It’s like a hundred baby snakes.”

My stomach rolls.

“They’re all eating something,” Jax says, moving closer with a stick.

“Jax, don’t,” I say.

“I just want to see.” Jax’s thin, lanky body curves over the things. The fact that he’s a pushy thirteen-year-old isn’t hidden behind his second-hand wool suit he wears like a character from a Wes Anderson movie. He takes the stick and moves a few of the snakes away, and they slither in between the rocks, revealing pale, thin bones. “It’s a snake. They’re eating another snake. Eating all its flesh.” Jax’s mouth hangs agape.

I grab his shoulder, and he jumps.

“Fucked up little cannibals,” I say.

“You think it was alive when they started?” he asks.

I shrug.

Jax and Hannah walk away, but I linger. The clink of forks against champagne flutes starts back up again.

I’d rather watch the cannibal feast.

They are rapidly breaking down every teeny tiny bit of flesh off of each and every bone—polishing them as they go. Their tails wag in unison like the sex ed videos they play in school, millions of sperm racing for an egg. But one snake moves out of sync with the rest.

This snake slithers slowly. It moves as if it's trying to sneak away from the rest unseen, as if it’s no longer willing to be a part of the annihilation of their mother. A baby snake leaving its family. I hope I get out too, baby snake. Just before the little scaled worm makes it into the crevasse between the stones, one of its kin catches it at the tail. It struggles against its brethren, but then another one joins the first, pulling the traitor back to the scene of the slaughter. A third snake slithers out in front of the rebel still trying to get away. The snake at its tail begins consuming it, bringing it inside itself centimeter by centimeter.

I cover my mouth and close my eyes. When I open them, the only thing left is its tiny struggling head before the whole thing is just—

“Uh, Emma, you coming?” Hannah shouts.

“Yeah … yeah,” I say. The tiny rebel vanished inside of the other snake. The surviving snake is puffy and bulging, full with its own sibling. My stomach sours.

I shouldn’t have watched that.

I run towards Jax and Hannah, away from the scene of the massacre. Across the lawn, I rush past the table where Mom and Ben are kissing. The guests laugh and clap. My heart aches; I can’t help but feel like this is the end of my life, the end of things as we knew them.

“C’mon, Emma!” Hannah grabs my hand and pulls me into the dance, the three of us, hand in hand, with no rhythm or care, just like when we were little kids in the backyard while the moms giggled in a corner. With Grandma, with Aunt Becca, Mom— us.

I smile and pretend I don’t want to cry, that I don’t already know that nothing will ever be the same again.

About The Author

Monique Asher is an American author who writes horror novels. She is a member of the HWA. Monique is a trauma survivor and a therapist. Her personal experience with trauma injects reality into the stories she writes. She lives in Southeastern Michigan with her family and a small zoo that often come along on trips to haunted hotels and dark twisty wilderness. Don’t Eat the Pie is her debut novel.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Rising Action (September 24, 2024)
  • Length: 368 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781998076178

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Raves and Reviews

“Don't Eat the Pie by Monique Asher is unnerving, panicked, claustrophobic and disorienting. Right when you think you've found your footing, the bottom opens and you're plunged into a pit of disquiet. Deliciously eerie.”

– Cynthia Pelayo, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Forgotten Sisters

"Don’t Eat the Pie is gothic horror at its most deliciously twisted. It’s weird and wild and so deeply unnerving that I couldn’t help but devour it and keep going back for more."

– Megan Collins, author of The Family Plot

“Asher’s Don’t Eat the Pie is the unholy offspring of Suspiria and Gilmore Girls, a wickedly entertaining supernatural tale with an unforgettable mother-daughter combo at its heart.”

– Patrick Barb, author of Pre-Approved for Haunting and Other Stories

"Don’t Eat the Pie is a dark rollercoaster whose twists and turns will leave you breathless, not letting up until the very last page. Asher creates the perfect balance of family drama, occult intrigue, and unrelenting tension in this horror/thriller that is sure to haunt you long after you finish reading. I’m not easily surprised, but this novel had me gasping aloud, as well as squealing with joy, at the delicious twists multiple times. Beside the thrills, Asher’s depiction of the central relationship between mother and daughter pulled at my heartstrings. I know I’ll be gifting this book to all the readers in my life."

– Emma E. Murray, author of Crushing Snails

"Don't Eat the Pie is an extremely assured debut about the destructive power of family ties, false community and the prison that familial duty can build around us, presented in a narrative riddled with sinister secrets, morbid visions, odd neighbours, shifty behaviour and, of course...pie. I loved it."

– Gemma Amor author of The Folly 

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