It’s been a couple of weeks now since I read this, and it’s only gotten better in my memory. I was originally hemming and hawing about whether or not my initial inclination to give this five stars was the right thing to do, but no, I was right. This book deserves five stars.
I’ll get into specifics in the next paragraph, but for now if you want to go in cold on this one but still have an idea of what you’re in for, the best way I can describe this book is that it’s like a Goosebumps book that decided to grow up, went through puberty, and then became an adult. It’s got that same whimsical, gross, horrifying feeling that the Goosebumps books gave me when I was a kid, but with added adult pathos, and really startling insight into what it means to feel grief and have a complicated relationship with your family. And with a much, much better ending.
Okay, now a little bit of plot. Our main character is Louise, a single mother living in San Francisco with her five year old daughter, Poppy. When her parents die (the blurb makes it seem like it was COVID, but it was actually a car accident) she goes home for the funeral, and to make arrangements for the estate. But there is also her brother, Mark, the spoiled (by her parents) black sheep of the family. She and Mark haven’t spoken in years, but now have to in order to put their parents to rest. It does NOT go well. And that’s before the realtor (their cousin) tells them she won’t sell the house for them until they take of the little problem that it’s haunted.
If this sounds generic, that’s on purpose, because I don’t want to give away any of the kooky details that pop in along the way. And there are A LOT of kooky details. I knew almost nothing but a bare-bones premise going into this, and that was the way to do it. My meter for scary things is broken, so I don’t know for sure if other people will find this book scary. I suspect they will*, but I just found it creepy, and weirdly heartwarming. And funny.
*SPOILERS: Don’t like puppets or dolls? Stay away. And skip pages 202-203 if you can’t do eye things. Body horror is also a consideration here, with a scene involving a graphic amputation of a limb.
Maybe my favorite thing that Hendrix does here is with the character of Mark, who I HATED for the first third of this book. I was convinced he was not redeemable, but then Hendrix pulls it off, and I nearly couldn’t believe it while it was happening to me. There are a handful of other characters in the book that found extremely entertaining and highly likable, and the main character Louise was extremely easy to identify with and root for. This book’s characters surprised me, especially since the characters weren’t a highlight for me in the only other Hendrix book I’ve read (The Final Girl Support Group).
I might have peaked early on this one, but now I’m really looking forward to reading the rest of his stuff. I have one coming up in February and then two others purchased and ready to be plopped onto my TBR. I’m not going to go in anticipating I will like them as much as this one, but I’m hopeful.