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Book: “A House with Good Bones” by T. Kingfisher
Publishing Info: Tor Nightfire, March 2023
Where Did We Get This Book: We received eARCs from Edelweiss+ and NetGalley.
Where You Can Get This Book: WorldCat | Amazon | Indiebound
Book Description: A haunting Southern Gothic from an award-winning master of suspense, A House With Good Bones explores the dark, twisted roots lurking just beneath the veneer of a perfect home and family.
“Mom seems off.”
Her brother’s words echo in Sam Montgomery’s ear as she turns onto the quiet North Carolina street where their mother lives alone. She brushes the thought away as she climbs the front steps. Sam’s excited for this rare extended visit, and looking forward to nights with just the two of them, drinking boxed wine, watching murder mystery shows, and guessing who the killer is long before the characters figure it out.
But stepping inside, she quickly realizes home isn’t what it used to be. Gone is the warm, cluttered charm her mom is known for; now the walls are painted a sterile white. Her mom jumps at the smallest noises and looks over her shoulder even when she’s the only person in the room. And when Sam steps out back to clear her head, she finds a jar of teeth hidden beneath the magazine-worthy rose bushes, and vultures are circling the garden from above.
To find out what’s got her mom so frightened in her own home, Sam will go digging for the truth. But some secrets are better left buried.
We are back with another joint review, doing another horror story from T. Kingfisher, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. I really like it when both Serena and I can provide various insights into one book, and Kingfisher may be joining Silvia Moreno-Garcia as one that we both read and review. This time we have “A House with Good Bones”, a haunted house story with dysfunctional family dynamics, insect archaeology, and so many vultures! I can tell you that if you are someone who wants to dabble in horror, but don’t really like feeling the various intense feelings that horror novels can convey, Kingfisher is a good option. This is definitely a haunted house book, but it’s horror-lite, and it’s horror-lite done well!
I enjoyed our protagonist Sam slowly starting to realize that there is something weird going on in her grandmother Gran Mae’s old house, that her mother has now moved into. In life neither Sam nor her mother got along so well with Gran Mae, but now Mom is not only nervous to speak ill of her, she is also following rules that she used to ignore or at least acknowledged were bunk. One can kind of see where this is all going, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. Kingfisher builds up the suspense regarding the weird goings on in the house, be it the vultures that have come to roost on the property, or the sudden ladybug infestation, or the slow recovery of memories of Gran Mae’s weird habits and abusive tendencies when Sam was a child. Kingfisher knows how to balance the suspense and genuinely scary moments with a lot of good humor and quirky characters that make the book a good horror story without more intense elements that could turn some people off. I also liked the way that some of these horror elements manifested, as they felt unique and interesting and outside from how other horror authors may have approached it. I really like how Kingfisher brings in the dark fantasy stuff to spice up the genre a bit, and it always feels like it melds well. And finally I liked the more thematic elements of this story regarding family dysfunction, generational trauma, and the way that parents can sometimes make mistakes that take a toll on their children that may take time to process and heal from. It doesn’t bog down the story with too much melancholy, but I liked that it was an underlying theme.
I enjoyed “A House with Good Bones”! Kingfisher is a great choice for people who want to do horror but aren’t as into visceral or intense scares. It’s a fun and creepy haunted house story to be sure.
I second what Kate said: it’s so fun when we get to joint review a book, and T. Kingfisher is another author who intersects well with both of our genres, writing horror and fantasy. Plus, like Kate said, Kingfisher writes the type of horror that is still approachable for those of us who are big fraidy-cats about the very dark stuff. And this book is another perfect example of it!
While I felt like I had a pretty good understanding of where the horror aspects were going, once they actually showed up, they were sufficiently horrific. In particular, the last quarter of the book went into a very creepy place. There were some genuinely freak visuals and the book masters a classic horror trope: the solid ending that feels just off enough to leave you in suspense! But even during these darker moments, there were parts were I was laughing and also feeling strangely sad for the horrible creatures/people. It was a very mixed bag of emotions that worked really well.
I also really liked the themes about family trauma and abusive relationships in families. Again, all of these things were touched on in ways that felt very true to life but never made caricatures of any of the characters involved. Sam was an excellent main character. Her scientific background was unique (lots of interesting tidbits about insects and archeology) and lead her to handling certain scenes with ladybugs with a lot more calm than I would have had, that’s for sure! She also was a great example of casual body positivity. It’s not her entire identity, but she’s comfortable with who she is and how she moves through the world.
Kate’s Rating 8: A creepy haunted house story with family trauma and vultures galore, “A House with Good Bones” is a horror-lite haunted house read that will leave horror fans satisfied.
Serena’s Rating 8: Sufficiently creepy for this fantasy fan while also tackling important themes like family trauma and body positivity.
“A House with Good Bones” is included on the Goodreads lists “Suburban Gothic”, and “Horror to Look Forward To in 2023”.