Welcome to Salome

Malus pumila
Folk name: Apple tree, domesticated apple

Thirty-three years ago, the street upon which she now walked had been but a dirt road, unnamed, unmarked, cutting its way through the orchard from north to south… Houses were built on barren fields where once the land had been striped with rows of apple trees.

Though not an actual character, the setting of The Poison Box plays a critical role in the story. The book opens with the introduction of Mary Raedwolfe (without yet revealing her identity) who has returned home after a 7 year absence. Immediately, the reader is pulled into the history of the neighborhood in which Mary walks.

The town’s name alludes to the Biblical characters of Salome – both the mother of apostles James and John…and the young woman who performed the Dance of the Seven Veils and demanded the head of John the Baptist on a platter. A statue of the “good” Salome stands in the town square, right in front of the church, though most people don’t remember the “good” Salome from the stories they heard in church. (The one with the dancing veils and beheading is so much more interesting.)

This town, named after two women on opposite ends of the moral spectrum, is a modern-day Garden of Eden. It was built around a once-thriving apple orchard that was tended lovingly by the women who married into the family that owned it. In this version of the tale, however, it is a man who spoils the beauty of the garden and gets himself expelled from its warmth and protection.

But the characters in the story don’t seem to notice this twist in the tale. They are too focused on Mary, the one they expect to play the part of Eve.

As readers dive deeper into the book, they discover that this garden is, indeed, filled with serpents. But just who – or what – those serpents are is not always as clear as the residents of Salome think it is.

Nestled in redwood country, the town is aching in its beauty, seducing even those that live there with its swaying aspens, the deep gorge passionately cut into the earth by hundreds of years of the Two Thieves River’s insistent caress, and the fog that so greedily tries to press itself against everything and everyone with its formless gray fingers. There are still wild places hidden at every turn, the land refusing to submit to domestication even when part of it was overtaken by the orchard. The houses on Five Seed Street sit on unusually large parcels of land, mostly unfenced by neighbors who were instinctively drawn to those wide open acres and the views of the forested land at the edge of the neighborhood.

It is in those wild, untamed places where Ema met her boyfriend after dark, where the boys from the high school sucked hungrily on hand-rolled joints, where Dan took his daily runs to escape his grief, and where something unspeakable happened to Mary.

Over the years, the cool stony face of Salome watched over these events from her perch in the town square. Until one day, when this "good" Salome gave up her post and the residents of the town descended into rage, turning all their attention to the ones they felt were to blame. The outsiders. The two who didn't belong.

They were out for revenge. Blood. A head on a platter. And no one in Salome would stop until they got what they wanted. 

They saw these outsiders as the poison apples in their garden. The symbol of sin, of their fall from grace. They knew better, after all, than to eat the forbidden fruit.

You can buy The Poison Box here. (And stay tuned for the release of the audiobook!) 

If you've read the book, a review (on Amazon or social media - don't forget to hashtag it!) would be greatly appreciated. <3