Growing up I had, what I would describe as, a healthy fear of the murderous doll Chucky. How to Sell a Haunted House by Grady Hendrix did nothing to lessen those fears. Cue in also how I started to read this around Halloween – a great mix. Read down below to get a more in-depth look at my thoughts on this new release.
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.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
Characters and Family
Part of the depth of How to Sell a Haunted House is the apparent intergenerational trauma and fractured familial relationships. Family ties, duties, and shared experiences are the backbone of this book and drive the plot and conflict. The two main characters, siblings Louise and Mark are not very likable initially, but I think that as the story goes along, many things are brought to light that helps to develop and explain their characters.
Plot and Tone
I would say the plot was compelling and, as a reader, I felt very invested in seeing how things turned out. How to Sell a Haunted House certainly utilizes many different horror tropes and plot points, but it did not in any way diminish my experience of reading it. If anything, it helped with the tongue-in-cheek aspects that kept popping up. There were plenty of slightly unexpected moments of comedy throughout the book that I enjoyed. (Note the absurdity of being attacked by a taxidermied squirrel nativity scene.)
How to Sell a Haunted House really did feel like a horror movie in how it just kept going. You know when you are watching a movie and are like “oh good, everything is solved!” but then you are also like “I know there is half an hour left in the run time”? That is what Hendrix was able to encapsulate in the second half of the book. I would say the pacing was good overall. The beginning was slower and eventually picked up, but there was one flashback scene that seemed to be very long and lost my interest for a time.
How to Sell a Haunted House was a proper creepy book and I’m so glad I got the opportunity to read it. If you are a fan of horror, hauntings, and other similar descriptors that start with “h” that I cannot think of at the moment, you need to get your hands on a copy of Grady Hendrix’s book. For some, it might be a haul to read it, but I would say it is definitely worth the length of the book.