When Sarah Grissom is seven years old, her brother adn her cousins--the Northgates--play a trick on her. They pretend there's a ghost in the attic of their grandmother's big, rambling East Texas house, and they take Sarah up to meet it. It's just a game for the others, but Sarah senses a frightening thing there, a presence. Is it a ghost? Without a doubt there is something--something cold, something deadly--lurking in the Northgate attic. Carol Dawson's "The Waking Spell" is a penetrating look at the specter that has haunted the women of this East Texas family since the late 1890s, when Sarah's vain, well-bred great-grandmother found herself plunged suddenly into a raw, rough-edged wilderness across the Red River from civilization. It was a place where no one understood manners, or proper sentiments, or refinement--where the only thing a proper lady could do was retreat into silence and secrets. Over the years, silnce and secrets have become an unspoken rule, an invisible bond of repression and frustration passed down from mother to daughter. In Carol Dawson's first novel, we follow Sarah's long journey hope through her family's history to confront the malignant silence that has haunted the lives of the Northgate women for nearly a century. Like Josephine Humphreys in "Dreams of Sleep," Carol Dawson writes of women struggling to find their own voices and identities in a male-dominated world of convention that punishes daring, stifles initiative, and encourages silence.