The Good House, by Tananarive Due ★★★★☆

Started 9/10/19

I was going to start Fledgling first, but I ended up ending Dies Drear on my bike and only had the Good House on hand. I am liking the book so far. I thought this was a horror ghost story, and it may prove to be that. However, it begins about a family that seem to be witches or magic of some how. It seems to relate to their African ancestry, but I am not sure exactly how. I am intrigued. I love it when fantasy mixes with every day life (basically urban fantasy). Hopefully, we’ll get a bit of horror from this too. I think the hardest part of this will be staying focused through the entire 21hr book, which is a bit longer than Dies Drear.

Update 9/13/19

I’m over 5hrs (23%) into the book, and I am thoroughly enjoying it. The book has a interesting and compelling story about a women who early on gains ownership of her grandmothers house, an old house known famously by everyone in the town as the Good House. Except, tragedy strikes (the Goodreads synopsis is far more spoilery, beware), and she ends up leaving the house before fate draws her back. As time goes on we begin to wonder if this house may not be as good as everyone thinks.

The story itself is solid. Beyond the plot, the story telling is very well done. I am a big fan of Due’s style. It is engaging and amusing at times. I feel like I am really there experiencing the narrative, and that is the best kind of book. The story is a mix of paranormal horror and modern day urban fantasy. There may be African magic or dark forces at work in a way that feels like new take on classic ideas in urban stories. I am hoping we dig deeper into the African (and maybe Haitian) roots. I can’t help but compare this to my experience of The Children of Blood and Bone that used African myths. The difference being that story had a worn out plot and a less effective writing style. Furthermore, this story exists in the contemporary world, and that makes it more capable and effective at articulating what it’s like to be a black woman in society. This is not to suggest that I, a white man, know what it is like to be a black woman, and that is why I appreciate having these stories that can give a slightly better understanding.

Update 9/18/19

I am over half way now, nearly 60% through the book. I did notice a slight lull in the book about half way. This may be the book or myself getting a bit tired after pushing through so much so fast. To give you some prospective, this books word count is on par with Harry Potter (closest to book four). This book is even longer than To Say Nothing of the Dog, which I didn’t even realize. It certainly doesn’t feel like that. Even with the brief lull, I am amazed at how fast I am pushing through the book. It is interesting, unnerving and engaging. Apart from the unnerving though, there isn’t much horror. Again, this may be more urban fantasy than horror, but I think it still works for the Halloween theme.

The lull doesn’t last. The story is quick to pick up and make me eager to keep reading. The problem is, it felt like an abrupt change of pace from the slow part to going full throttle. The story spends a lot of time slowly introducing and explaining the back story of the house and Angela’s grandmother Marie. The next thing you know, it’s a flood of information that was necessary for things to pick up. It isn’t a major flaw; I’ll probably dock it half a star for it.

Update 9/19/19

The novel has managed to maintain a surprising level of speed. Not everything was revealed as I suspected. Around half way, we begin a flood of information that is disconcerting at first, but it is easy to get into the new pace of the story. Then, it’s hard to get out. There are only 5 hrs left (77% through).

Finished 9/20/19

I think I have been misjudging the horror in this book. I lept seeing all the horror pieces as less effective, but I think it is better to refer to it as different. Many stories build suspense to this notion of will our characters be okay while Due completely disregards this in our most intense moments. She isn’t afraid to foreshadow and outright state that a persons death is impending. The horror of it is that she doesn’t turn away. Instead, we find ourselves in the perspective of the dying, forced to share that most horrifying of moments as you realize this is death. It is less effective at maintaining dread, but it is great in its own right.

In the end, it was a great book, but I am sad to say, this has the most undermining ending I have ever read. I say undermining because, in general, I think a story stands on its own, and the ending is but a small piece of my enjoyment. The issue here is the ending really just undercuts everything I read in a way that hurts the book unlike any ending I’ve read before. I read one reviewer saying it was like a fairy tale. I thought I knew what to expect, but this ending was way more fairy tale than I expected. This coupled with the lack of dread many times makes it a less effective horror book. Nevertheless, it is still a really good read. It just isn’t on par with Stephen King at his best.

On that note, there are multiple references to King in this book, and the story-line it self feels like a take on the Shining with a bit of paranormal activity and voduo magic. I loved seeing callbacks to Marie Laveau and Papa Legba who I first learned about in the third season of American Horror Story, but they predate the show as does this book. With these inspirations, Due creates an amazingly original and well done novel, taking similar ideas, introducing a different culture, and still reworking the parts she uses here. Furthermore, it’s all weaved together with a writting style that feels natural and easy to follow. I will be reading more of her books!

Papa Legba as seen in American Horror Story

I would rate this 4.5/5 stars. There were moments here I enjoyed more than Fledgling (which I rated 4.5 rounding up), but the ending really does cause it to round down.