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Book: “How To Sell a Haunted House” by Grady Hendrix
Publishing Info: Berkley, January 2023
Where Did I Get This Book: I received and eARC from NetGalley.
Book Description: Every childhood home is haunted, and each of us are possessed by our parents.
When their parents die at the tail end of the coronavirus pandemic, Louise and Mark Joyner are devastated but nothing can prepare them for how bad things are about to get. The two siblings are almost totally estranged, and couldn’t be more different. Now, however, they don’t have a choice but to get along. The virus has passed, and both of them are facing bank accounts ravaged by the economic meltdown. Their one asset? Their childhood home. They need to get it on the market as soon as possible because they need the money. Yet before her parents died they taped newspaper over the mirrors and nailed shut the attic door.
Sometimes we feel like puppets, controlled by our upbringing and our genes. Sometimes we feel like our parents treat us like toys, or playthings, or even dolls. The past can ground us, teach us, and keep us safe. It can also trap us, and bind us, and suffocate the life out of us. As disturbing events stack up in the house, Louise and Mark have to learn that sometimes the only way to break away from the past, sometimes the only way to sell a haunted house, is to burn it all down.
Review: Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this novel!
It has been a little bit, but the time that many horror fans have been waiting for has arrived! Grady Hendrix has another horror novel out! “How To Sell a Haunted House” has been on my radar for quite some time now, as I have been a fan of Hendrix for years now, ever since my old boss handed me “Horrorstör” from our New Materials delivery and said ‘is this something you may like?’. I’ve been reading his books ever since as he takes on various horror sub genres with humor, heart, and well done scares. And guys, the time I have been waiting for has finally arrived: this one is a haunted house story.
Excited is an understatement. And by the time I did sit down to read it, I was happy that it was a holiday weekend, because I pretty much tore through this thing whenever I had down time. It’s a top 3 Hendrix book for me, to be sure.
Hendrix is kind of known for cheeky and quirky horror stories that do have legitimate scary foundations, and “How To Sell a Haunted House” continues that streak, this time giving his take on a haunted house story. We have Louise and Mark, estranged siblings who have to come together after their parents are killed in a car accident and leave behind their childhood home and all their possessions. As the bitter siblings try to sort through the house and all the things, weird noises start to come from a nailed shut attic, and memories of strange moments from their childhood start coming to the surface. I’m going to keep things kind of vague with the specifics, but Hendrix combines some genuinely creepy and scary moments of horror and dread that build at a great pace with super funny moments. He is always able to combine two different tones without giving too much distracting weight to one or the other. The scary moments aren’t negated by the humorous bits, just as the really funny bits don’t feel out of place or unwarranted because of the scary stuff. Hendrix knows how to make the balance hit just right. He’s SO good at that.
The portrayal of dysfunctional family dynamics and generational trauma is really well done in this book (this has kind of been a theme in the books I’ve been reading lately, but hey, I’m down for metaphors!). We go into this story from Louise’s point of view, who has left her childhood home of Charleston for California, and who is returning due to her parents’s deaths. Her relationship with her brother is strained at best, and the usual tension in the wake of a sudden loss is exacerbated by the fact they seem to hate each other. I went in fully expecting to hate Mark due to the way he was acting and how Louise was reacting, but this is the thing about Hendrix, by the time we had gotten through the book I was rooting for both of them in all of their complicated, nuanced and imperfect selves. As mentioned above it isn’t like the idea of using family trauma and dysfunction as horror is a very new idea in the genre, but Hendrix really sells it because of the compelling characters, be they two antagonistic siblings, quirky relatives, or a free spirited woman who performs exorcisms on dolls. Hendrix always comes through with the characters in his stories, and it was because I cared about them so much in this one that I felt the stakes were super high, and that makes for high tension horror as two damaged people try to stop harmful family cycles before they damage the next generation. Watching this very messy sibling relationship go through ups, downs, and evolution was emotional as hell, and Hendrix nails all of the complex feelings and actions between Louise and Mark.
I can once again say that Grady Hendrix has knocked it out of the park. “How To Sell a Haunted House” is freaky and funny and emotional, and I really, really enjoyed my time with it.
Rating 9: A fun and at times quite scary horror novel about how houses aren’t the only things that can be haunted, “How To Sell a Haunted House” is another triumph from Grady Hendrix.