While leaving Chicago after burying his father, Conrad Harrison takes a wrong road and ends up in Wisconsin. He stops at a diner for a meal and stumbles across an ad for a home for sale in Black Earth, Wisconsin. The ad speaks to him and he feels compelled to follow up. Conrad purchases the house in hopes of moving with his wife to Black Earth. In Los Angeles, their marriage is foundering, infidelity and secrets are tearing them apart. Maybe a fresh start, far away from L.A. will save their marriage. A week after they move in, things change in the house. Conrad comes to realize that things that often feel perfect in the beginning can change dramatically.
The Birthing House by Christopher Ransom is a debut novel that is alternately beautifully surreal and downright terrifying. It’s been a very long time since I read a book that actually scared me. Pulse pounding, turn on the lights and pull your feet up off the floor and tuck them under you, your bejeebers have left the building, type of scare-me.
(Quotes come from an Advanced Reader Copy and I haven’t checked them against the final copy of the book…but I hope there was no change, it would mess up the book!)
“…He was starting to doubt that he had actually seen it move when the doll took another step—click—and then another after that one, moving with renewed purpose, as if it had just found what it was looking for.
But that’s crazy, because it has no eyes….”
“…Blood humming through his veins, eyes wide and snapping left to right, Conrad planted his feet, shot off the bed, and beelined for the open door. Approaching the threshold he—Don’t look back! No…I have to! —glanced down just in time to see the doll marching stiffly after him, swaying left and right and the moment stretched into a vacuum…..”
At this point, I got up from my seat, checked the lock on the door, turned on all the lights, actually felt uncomfortable with the idea of my feet on the floor next to the open space between my chair and the floor. What am I? Six years old again??
I don’t usually have any patience for surreal dream-like scenes in books, and this book had more than a few of those. I knew they should annoy me, they always do, and yet in this book, inexplicably, it worked for me, adding to the wonderfully creepy atmosphere. I’ll admit to being a bit chagrined at the conclusion. The book ends with an ambiguity that leaves a certain amount of interpretation to the reader. And I usually dislike ambiguous conclusions. But it does make you think and reflect on the novel for a while after finishing it. If the author was looking for that, then he succeeded.
All in all, The Birthing House was an interesting read, creepy and intense. If you’re a fan of the genre, I think you’ll enjoy it.
The Birthing House is on sale today, August 4. Scare the pants off yourself and pick up a copy today!