Stephanie Wrobel has a thing for dysfunctional families. Her 2020 debut, Darling Rose Gold, was a psychological thriller inspired by the real-life story of Gypsy Rose Blanchard, a young woman who, after years of abuse at the hands of her mother, plotted with an internet boyfriend to kill her.
Wrobel’s latest, This Might Hurt, centers on the complicated relationship between two sisters, Natalie and Kit, and the secrets—and cult—threatening to tear their family apart.
The novel starts in the wake of their mom’s death. Natalie and Kit haven’t been in contact for six months, with Natalie working as a high-powered executive in Boston, while Kit toils as a soul-searching receptionist in Brooklyn. This sense of introspection makes Kit an ideal target for a place like Wisewood, a wellness center on a remote island in Maine. There, a leader known only as Teacher promises to help attendees be their “Maximized Self.” Committing to six-month stays, guests pledge to cut off all contact from the outside world—no internet, no phones, no visitors.
That last clause proves to be an issue when Natalie receives an anonymous and menacing email from someone with a Wisewood email address threatening to reveal the secret she’s been keeping from Kit. But, when she drives to Wisewood in an attempt to get to Kit before the email’s sender does, she’s met by an unwelcoming population and the sneaking suspicion that she’s being watched and followed.