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Cherish Farrah


Cherish Farrah

Bethany C. Morrow, the bestselling and critically acclaimed author of the young adult book A SONG BELOW WATER, returns to adult fiction with CHERISH FARRAH, a gripping and deliciously creepy thriller perfect for readers of WHEN NO ONE IS WATCHING and THE OTHER BLACK GIRL.

Ever since they were children, Farrah Turner and Cherish Whitman have clung to one another as only best friends can. As the only Black girls in their privileged, wealthy (read: white) community, they are often confused for sisters, but their upbringings are decidedly different. Farrah is the daughter of Black parents, ones who have fought their way into the upper reaches of society by working twice as hard as others at a fraction of the pay. Cherish, meanwhile, seems to have hacked the adoptive lottery by being adopted by white parents, Brianne and Jerry Whitman, who are somehow, shockingly, as socially aware and devoted to equity as they are exceedingly wealthy and generous.

For years, Farrah, Cherish and their families have summered together, hosted slumber parties, and supported one another through the difficulties and fears of raising Black girls in a racist world. Recently, though, their relationship has changed. Farrah’s parents are bankrupt, their house is foreclosed, and Farrah has been forced to live with Cherish and the Whitmans as her family works to find new jobs and housing.

"With a tension that never lets up, a clear-eyed commentary on racial and social inequality, and an absolutely chilling protagonist, CHERISH FARRAH is everything that social horror should be: glossy, disturbing and full of powerful intent."

At first glance, CHERISH FARRAH sounds like a classic tale of best friends on opposite sides of the socioeconomic spectrum, perhaps even a moving tale of one family’s generosity and another’s salvation. But that’s where you have Farrah --- and the brilliant mind of Bethany C. Morrow --- totally wrong. Right from the start, it is clear that there is something off about Farrah. Like any person of color navigating a predominantly white setting, she is careful and cautious, but she is almost too calculating, too adept at reading social situations, facial tics and everything else that happens between the lines. Not only that, she is highly skilled at controlling these cues and manufacturing her own to gear the attention of others either toward or away from her. For Farrah, control is an art form, and now that she has lost control over her parents and home life, she has become even more clear-eyed in her pursuit of it in all other areas, including her friendship with Cherish, who she loves “even when she hates her.”

Not for the first time, but perhaps for the most undeniable, Farrah is seeing that her friend, whom she lovingly teases as “White Girl Spoiled,” really does exist in a bubble --- where banks never need to be involved in the sales of houses, funds can be “moved around” in case of emergencies, and “losing everything” really means losing very little. As her own situation worsens, Farrah draws closer to Cherish not only to reap the benefits of being the Whitmans’ bonus daughter, but to toy with and possibly burst the careful bubble that Cherish’s well-meaning but oblivious parents have built around her. But however perfect the Whitmans seem, control is a game with many players, and it is only so long before Farrah can see that Cherish’s “bubble” is less a fairy tale and more a gilded prison that she has willingly, blindly entered.

If you’re new to the genre of “social horror,” you’ve found your perfect entry point. Bethany C. Morrow is a clever writer who is as skilled in the art of sleight of hand as she is at writing razor-sharp, crystal-clear prose. CHERISH FARRAH is a disorienting read: the entire story is told in Farrah’s voice, and as I mentioned earlier, she is not always a relatable or even comforting body to inhabit. Her need for control is chilling and her observations creepy, but there is something utterly compelling about seeing the world through her eyes and hearing her brutal honesty firsthand. The first third of the novel will be slow for some readers as Morrow immerses them in Farrah’s joyless, controlling mindset, but as the pace picks up, it becomes clear that Farrah’s control has extended beyond the page. So far, we have only seen what she wants us to see, but as chilling as her mind is, what exists outside her narrative is terrifying beyond belief.

Readers who enjoyed watching Get Out or reading THE OTHER BLACK GIRL will likely sense that the Whitmans really are too good to be true, too prepared with the perfect commentary on racism and inequity, and way too good at cornrows to be entirely innocent white adoptive and bonus parents of a town’s only Black girls. Through Farrah’s gaze, they are everything that white allies should strive to be, yet you cannot help but smell the white saviorism wafting from them.

But Morrow’s switch-and-bait is slick, and with every character having something to hide, something to prove and something to lose, it’s easy to lose track of the real villains…until she demands that you pay attention. Her control of her characters is masterful, and the shocking twists and turns that get you to the book’s grisly conclusion are searing, skewering commentaries on everything from race, class, “good” Black citizens and very bad white saviors. She is unflinching in her examinations, but more than that, she truly enjoys making her readers squirm (as she should!).

With a tension that never lets up, a clear-eyed commentary on racial and social inequality, and an absolutely chilling protagonist, CHERISH FARRAH is everything that social horror should be: glossy, disturbing and full of powerful intent.

Reviewed by Rebecca Munro on February 25, 2022

Cherish Farrah
by Bethany C. Morrow