October 29, 2009

The Birthing House

The Birthing House by Christopher Ransom
Fiction - Horror
2009 St. Martin's Press
Finished on 10/16/09
Rating: 1/5 (Poor)

"I got news for you, kid," Leon Laski had said. "A haunting is just history roused from her sleep. Any house can be haunted, even a new one. Know why? Because what makes 'em haunted ain't just in the walls and the floors and the dark rooms at night. It's in us. All the pity and rage and sadness and hot blood we carry around. The house might be where it lives, but the human heart is the key. We run the risk of letting the fair maiden out for one more dance every time we hang our hat."

Product Description

It was expecting them.

Conrad and Joanna Harrison, a young couple from Los Angeles, attempt to save their marriage by leaving the pressures of the city to start anew in a quiet, rural setting. They buy a Victorian mansion that once served as a haven for unwed mothers, called a birthing house. One day when Joanna is away, the previous owner visits Conrad to bequeath a vital piece of the house’s historic heritage, a photo album that he claims “belongs to the house.” Thumbing through the old, sepia-colored photographs of midwives and fearful, unhappily pregnant girls in their starched, nineteenth-century dresses, Conrad is suddenly chilled to the bone: staring back at him with a countenance of hatred and rage is the image of his own wife….

Thus begins a story of possession, sexual obsession, and, ultimately, murder, as a centuries-old crime is reenacted in the present, turning Conrad and Joanna’s American dream into a relentless nightmare.

An extraordinary marriage of supernatural thrills and exquisite psychological suspense,
The Birthing House marks the debut of a writer whose first novel is a terrifying tour de force.

Ugh. The only thing going for this book is that it's a very quick read. The Birthing House was my book club's selection for October and we were all terribly disappointed in this poorly written debut novel. Where to begin?

~ Clunky dialogue, which forced many of us to re-read several lines, hoping to discern the author's intent.

~ Gratuitous, explicit and bizarre sex scenes.

~ Clich├ęs -- Creepy faceless dolls that walk in the middle of the night; the mysterious sound of a crying baby; snakes; dark mysterious woman lurking outside windows and in the garden.

~ Countless loose ends and meandering plot lines.

~ Weak characters. Poor editing.

This novel reads like a screenplay and might very well be a decent movie. I think I was the only one in my book club that got creeped out by some of the scenes, but then I'm very easily scared. Especially if I'm home alone and reading late at night.

Final words - Overwrought. Unoriginal. Weak. Don't waste your money. If you're curious and want to give it a try, borrow it from your library. If you want serious horror, read Stephen King or Joe Hill.


  1. Amen! I was creeped out by a couple of the scenes...dolls freak me out to begin with, so that scene was more than enough for me! Otherwise, it got a little silly and weird at the end...I'm still not sure I understand the ending entirely!

  2. I don't care for horror anyway so I'm glad that I didn't read a rave review. I'll bet it made for an interesting discussion at the book club.

  3. Blah. The blurb sounded kind of interesting, so I'm bummed that this one didn't live up!

  4. I said, right out loud, 'yuck' and then I saw your 'ugh' and was tickled. We agree! (even though I didn't and never will read it!)

    Have you ever seen Rosemary's Baby? It is really, really scary and really, really good. Haven't read the book. Can't imagine it could live up to the movie. ;<)

  5. The premise intrigues me, but not enough to actually read the book.

  6. yuck...a 1 huh? It really doesn't even sound very interesting. Sorry that it was a stinker!!

  7. You don't seem to be having a lot of luck with books this year... I hope it doesn't keep up!

  8. I'm not really a horror reader, so I'd have skipped this one but I did love 20th Century Ghosts. Sorry this one sucked. You should read The Gift of an Ordinary Day, next. I'm just dying to know if it's as totally Les as it looks!!! Yes, selfish of me. :)

  9. Rachel - I'm glad to hear I wasn't the only one creeped out by that doll scene. Apparently, you and I were much more so than the main character. Yeah, I'm not sure I really understood those last few chapters, either, even after the discussion. Sorry you missed book club. We missed you!

    Framed - I like good horror. I think Stephen King is my favorite. Dean Koontz is good, but he's hit-or-miss with me. As far as the book club discussion, I'm surprised we had as much to talk about as we did. Turned out to be a decent discussion.

    Andi - He's working on another novel, so we'll see if this was just a case of poor editing.

    Nan - Ha! I can just hear you! :) Yes, we agree on this one. :) I think I saw a bit of Rosemary's Baby years and years ago. It came on one night when I was babysitting and I had to turn it off when I heard that baby crying. Shudder!!

    Charley - That's what my book club liked about the book -- the unique premise for the plot rather than the same-old, same-old. Unfortunately, the writing & editing just weren't solid enough. Thanks for visiting.

    Staci - Yeah. It probably would've wound up with a DNF rating if it hadn't been a book club read. At least it was quick.

    Kailana - These past few months have been full of duds. I need to do some serious searching for some potential winners so I don't end the year on such a low note.

    Bookfool - I'm lovin' 20th Century Ghosts, too. Joe Hill is quite the talented dude! Hope he publishes something new pretty soon.

    Yeah, I have The Gift of an Ordinary Day in my must-read TBR stack. Gotta read my book club book first.

  10. Anonymous9:14 AM

    I have The Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill, but I still haven't opened it. It doesn't take much for me to get seriously scared. I used to read Stephen King in High School, and then call the dog to sleep on my bed. As if Alex could protect me from zombies! ;)

    Speaking of disappointing books, I'm most disappointed with the Girl With THe Dragon Tattoo. I have a few pages left, review forthcoming, and I'd love to talk about it with you.

  11. :/ I HATE it when books disappoint me like that.

  12. Bellezza - Heart Shaped Box is creepy at the beginning, but the second half is more of a thriller. Just read the first few chapters in the middle of the day and you'll be fine. :)

    I'm sorry you're disappointed with TGWTDT. It's one that I did enjoy once I got further into it, but I wouldn't say I loved it. Hmm, guess I should look back and see how I rated it. My ratings tend to change after a few months have passed.

    Eva - The funny thing is that I really didn't have any interest in the book and wouldn't have given it a second glance if it weren't a book group selection. Oh, well. At least it didn't take me weeks to read!

  13. Oh darn. I was looking forward to your review of this one because that cover intrigued me. Good thing I still have more stories to read in 20th Century Ghosts!

  14. Iliana - It does have an interesting cover, doesn't it? Unfortunately, the book is pretty much a waste of time. I'm still enjoying 20th Century Ghosts, too. I like reading a couple every few days rather than reading the entire book cover-to-cover.


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