4 out of 5
Chip is haunted by his past. A former airline pilot, he feels responsible for the thirty-nine lives lost when his plane hit some geese and the emergency landing on Lake Champlain was botched. His escape is to move to northern New Hampshire with his wife Emily and their twin daughters where an empty Victorian home awaits them.
In the basement is a door locked shut with thirty-nine carriage bolts. Emily knows it must be a coincidence, but still worries over the haunted look on her husband’s face. When she comes home to find Chip had broken the door down but the carriage bolts remain, and her daughters later find human bones in the basement’s dirt floor, Emily doesn’t know what to think, and wonders if the move was a mistake.
The townspeople are also acting strangely. They know about the house’s past, but Emily and Chip feels like something is being left in the dark. With all of the women being botanists, they are eager to take Emily under their wing, but when they turn an unnatural attention to their daughters, both Emily and Chip feel intensely protective and wonder what on earth these people could want with their twin girls.
Chris Bohjalian is an amazing writer. The narrative, which changes perspectives, is haunting, especially Chip’s perspective, which is written in the second-person. Second-person narration is hard to pull off but Bohjalian manages it with surprising success.
I found that the plot was really well thought-out and unique. There are two separate storylines of horror happening which keeps the plot interesting, though I do think an entire book could have been constructed out of one or the other. I had also hoped more would be done with the house; it was suggested that the house may be possessing the family at one point, but then this plotline tapered off without any real resolution.
The characters, on the other hand, were so intricately constructed. I loved them. They felt fully realized to me and like complete individuals.
The pacing was also excellent and kept me on my seat until the end (about the last fifth of the book). Here things slowed down to an almost unbearable degree and I found myself growing impatient to wrap things up. Unfortunately, the ending was disappointing. I expected something more dramatic and shocking, but it was severely lacking in that respect, and therefore did not necessitate the drawn-out conclusion.
This book is absolutely worth reading and I would recommend it in a heartbeat. It is a marker by which to hold up other novels by, as I have never encountered such fascinating changes of perspective. As it is coming up to Halloween, please consider The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian as your next read.
-Ember Book Reviews
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