The Good House/B> [main] [about] [features] [reviews] [interviews] [link] [search]
Atria /496 p / $25 USBR>
A small town. An ancient evil. An attractive old house near an ancient
Indian burial place. An "outsider" family -- accepted, but not quite
like the rest of the townsfolk. (The family is "troubled" and the
townsfolk are just plain folks -- good or bad.) Misguided and thus
ill-fated exploration of arcane magic. The overwhelmingly horrific
tragedy of a dead child. Some romance. A family curse. A ring with
mystical power. A hidden past. A real page-turner.
Sound's like a book I'm gonna puke over in digust, right? Sounds like the
same-old, same-old, huh? In a moment of terror a character even
realizes it's not a good idea to try to bring back the dead "Even if
he hadn't read Pet Sematary three times, he knew better..." God bless
Stephen King, but to hell with the imitative, unintended, spurious
spawn of his metaphorical literary loins.
As has been proven at least 3000 times in the last quarter-century,
you can take those elements I mentioned above (or similar ones), put
them into a linear pattern with formulaic characters and, voila! -- a
novel that wastes the paper it's printed on.
Or you can subvert that notion (horror is supposed to subvert) and
write a damned good, entertaining novel centered on characters who
feel and about whom the reader feels (horror is emotion).
That's what Tananarive Due has done with The Good House. She's done it
with skill and her own unique imprint. She even manages to
successfully accomplish an audacious dénouement that makes you want to
stand up and cheer.
The Good House boiled down to the elements to which reviewers can boil
For nearly a century, the Good House has stood on its forested 60
acres near the small Washington state town of Sacajawea. Angela
Toussaint is its current owner and the grandmére who raised her,
Marie, owned the Good House before her. Although a successful Los
Angeles lawyer, Angela still lives in the house during the summers
when she has custody of her teenaged son, Corey. Angela and Tariq,
Corey's father, have been separated for four years and during most of
the school year, Corey lives with his father in Oakland. This summer
Tariq has shown up and there's a real possibility of reviving the
marriage. Then, during a Fourth of July party, Corey inexplicably
kills himself. Two years later, after dealing with the loss of
everything she loved, near-psychosis, and continued anguish, Angie
goes back to the Good House. Things have not gone well in Sacajawea.
You might even say there's a malignancy hanging over the community
that increases with Angie's arrival -- a malignancy that is killing
people. She discovers that Corey had found a Book of Mysteries, left
by Granmama Marie. He attempted to sort out a demonic mess on his own.
Although Angie had always disregarded any hint of such, Marie
Toussaint was a powerful voodoo manbo descended from countless
generations of magic-makers. As a result of Marie's fear of and anger
against murderous racists, she once unleashed a demon-spirit -- a baka
-- along with great calamity. Time has come for the baka to be dealt
with. With the human help of her high school sweetheart, Myles Fisher,
and the spiritual help of her ancestors, Angela uncovers the true
history of her family and must confront deadly Evil.
Due deftly cuts between three stories -- Marie's, Angela's, and
Corey's -- and, through her believable characters, utterly convinces
us that all the supernatural happenings, beings, and beliefs are
An accomplished writer to begin with, Due's skills are honed with each
new venture into fiction. After a "time-out" to write one non-fiction
book and co-write (with her mother) another, The Good House is her
return to horror. This is a very "American" horror novel. It's deeply
rooted in both the good and bad of American culture and history. It's
also flat out good story-telling. These qualities combine in The Good
House and prove Tananarive Due -- an African-American woman from the
south -- is the undisputable heiress to Stephen King's supernatural
Ain't that America?
-- From Cemetery Dance #47
Copyright © 2004 Paula Guran. All Rights