The thing about Grady Hendrix novels is that I read them without bothering to read the synopses anymore. It is enough for me to see his name on the cover when Quirk Books posts about an upcoming release or I’m on my Netgalley and a new title of his pops up on my available ARCs. To me, he is a known quantity. The books of his I haven’t read are ones that I just haven’t made time for. He is, to me, a guaranteed book buy if I’m happening by a bookstore and I see a title of his on a table display. It’s really that simple, and that’s how I ended up with How to Sell a Haunted House though I had promised myself I wouldn’t buy any new books until all the books I already had were read.
Suffice it to say: I had no idea about the puppets.
… and that’s really all I’ll say about that.
I will go onto say that, toward the end – the book is broken into sections titled with the stages of grief – but somewhere almost three quarters of the way through “Depression” and pretty far off from “Acceptance” the whole book came together for me in a way that really only Grady Hendrix has managed to do for me since I read Fear Street books as a tween/teen in the 90’s, which is to say that while I was already enjoying the story as a horror novel (a straight-up supernatural horror for the Oregon Trail Generation now in their early 40s) I hadn’t really gotten the emotional impact of what the novel was presenting. I “got” that it was broken up into stages of grief, so it wasn’t quite that, but the way that death and loss reflect back on us as people and our experiences of our own lives. It’s the way that a horror novel (like those Fear Street novels and the Christopher Pikes and the you know the ones on the paperback spinners at the library in the not-quite-adult reader section before publishing really took that age seriously) speak to a part of our real lives and the stages of our lives. Not just as we lumber toward death, but as we bumble through the every day mundane tasks of living in this world at our ages (whatever they are). It’s existential, man.
I love Grady Hendrix novels. I adore them. I can go on and on about my relationship with his books. I can go on and on about my life through the lens of the paperback horror novels everyone dismisses but he decided to embrace in his career. Ultimately, though, what’s most important is that the books are good, they’re great even. They transport me to a time when I didn’t understand the world, but I understood that I didn’t quite fit in it and that (most importantly) I was far from alone. Somewhere in the shadows were puppets that wanted to kill me – and they could get really close to winning, but they probably wouldn’t because Capital L Love or Capital E Exorcisms (LOL).
This book, like his other novels, is about a real thing – and probably the most real thing: What is real is what you think is real, and what you know is real. What is life – and what is alive – is only what we experience while we’re in it. Whether we’re made of flesh and bone or we’re stitched together fabric and stuffing. Grady Hendrix writes the books that I read and I loved back then, but for the me who is real and lives now.
… I know full well I could have just written a straightforward review of this book. But if you’re HERE, then you already know that what we read is as much who we are when we read it as what’s on the page when we do. If you’re like me… whenever I was or whenever I am… then you’d probably do well to pick up this book or his others.
But trigger warning if you do: anticipate the puppet gore.