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The Good House
The Good House by Tananarive Due
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve been on a horror reads run recently (well, spread over a year or so), roughly centered around two things: haunted houses and something to creep me out (not necessarily the same thing).

I approached this book with zero expectations, not knowing the author at all. Also, all the haunted house stories I’ve been reading failed to really ignite my thus far unscare-able reading appetite. I enjoyed them sure, but were they like really scary? Nope.

This one didn’t scare me either. However, the book was very well written, and I pretty much forgot about the horror and was drawn into the rich familial history and the pleasant small town community. The author jumped from present to flashback scenes as she tells the stories, and it’s pretty impressive how she manages this. I’m usually pretty unhappy with flashbacks, as I like a story to get on with it, but the flashbacks were punchy and almost action packed, and does a great job of conjuring a sense of foreboding. I especially liked how she describes an event in the past, then in the next chapter shows a character that has no business knowing the past repeating words said before. I’m of course just clumsily repeating a commonly used plot device, but seriously the book does a better job than me right now.

The magic involved here is Haitian in nature, very old America, and that was very interesting for me indeed. Refreshing, and I was strangely glad than I’m reading about something new, filled with enchanted symbols, spellcasting with water bowls and chicken bones and raven blood, scented altars, dream-visions and ancestral divination. Not your ‘standard’ biblical demons.

I’ve recently revisited Stephen King, and I’ve always loved his writing. But I think Due is as good as (if not better) a writer as King. Suspicious, since the blurb already has readers comparing Due to King as an ‘equal’. Maybe I was swayed, but I thoroughly enjoyed the prose. Also, I just came off Divergent, which means almost everything else I read at the same time will seem like masterpieces.

The ending was a bit of a cop out, in my opinion. Over the years I’ve reconciled with the fact that stories, like real life, don’t always end well, and there shouldn’t be an expectation that stories *should* end well. I’m totally ok with a horrific ending if the story logically concludes with that outcome. Almost everything I expected happened in the novel, but I didn’t expect that particular ending. Saying more would spoil it, so I’ll just say the ending probably weakened the book by about 10% (I say plunge the knife and live with it!), but not enough to change my mind about this wonderful book.

Great stuff. Recommended.

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