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."
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.
~ Clichés -- 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.