Book Review: The Good House by Tananarive Due

The Good House is a horror tale seeped in Vodou religion, grief, and regret.

Angela Touissant is still reeling from the suicide of her young son, Corey, two years before. Although she’s attempted to move on through therapy and a new career, she continues to blame herself and her ex-husband for Corey’s untimely death. It doesn’t help that there’s still the matter of her grandmother’s house, where Corey committed the deed, to deal with. Despite the conflicting emotions of love and loss that the house evokes, Angela is drawn back in attempt to bury her ghosts and sell the place. Instead, she plunges headlong into a deadly grudge spanning generations that threatens to destroy not only her, but the entire town surrounding the Good House.

I loved this book. The characters, the conflicts, the harsh realities wrapped in supernatural trappings. Angela is a complex character trying to find the balance between letting her teenage son grow up while still trying to protect him from an often unjust world. She’s imperfect, her relationships are complicated, and she doesn’t always know or do the right thing, but she tries. Corey, likewise, is stuck in the awkward stage between child and adult, constantly trying to find his place while not stepping over too many of his mother’s strict boundaries. Their relationship is probably my favorite in the book because it felt real. The eternal struggle between a parent trying to hold on just a little longer and a child desperate to be free. It was beautiful and heartbreaking.

The lore behind the Good House, where Angela’s grandmother, Marie, re-found love in different ways and simultaneously doomed her family, was so well constructed. Due is a fantastic writer who weaves religion, spirituality, and horror deftly throughout. Although I wasn’t familiar with every term used in the discussions of Vodou, she adds just enough detail to keep unfamiliar readers aware and engaged with what’s going on (and if you want a more in depth look at things or have questions, Google is always an option).

I really enjoyed this book right up until the last couple of chapters, when the great showdown between Angela and what haunts the Touissant family occurs. After so much excellent build up that involved the entire town of Sacajawea itself, the final clash felt rather hollow for me. I won’t spoil it, but I would have liked there to be more action, for Angela to have played a more active role. It stumbled a bit there, and then fell completely flat with the ending. Again, no spoilers, but the final scenes just didn’t work for me. It was very “Hollywood” and didn’t feel true to the rest of the book, which had been gritty and unapologetic in its brutality. I’m all for things ending on a high note, but this one just seemed very out of place with everything leading up to it.

Overall, I would definitely, definitely recommend this book to fans of haunted houses, lineal curses, and heartfelt stories of family. I’ll certainly be reading more from Ms. Due.

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