DarkEcho Horror
deccoclock by Rick Berry
Book Review

The Good House
Tananarive Due
Atria /496 p / $25 USBR> ISBN: 0-7434-4900-2

A small town. An ancient evil. An attractive old house near an ancient Indian burial place. An "outsider" family -- accepted, but not quite like the rest of the townsfolk. (The family is "troubled" and the townsfolk are just plain folks -- good or bad.) Misguided and thus ill-fated exploration of arcane magic. The overwhelmingly horrific tragedy of a dead child. Some romance. A family curse. A ring with mystical power. A hidden past. A real page-turner.

Sound's like a book I'm gonna puke over in digust, right? Sounds like the same-old, same-old, huh? In a moment of terror a character even realizes it's not a good idea to try to bring back the dead "Even if he hadn't read Pet Sematary three times, he knew better..." God bless Stephen King, but to hell with the imitative, unintended, spurious spawn of his metaphorical literary loins.

As has been proven at least 3000 times in the last quarter-century, you can take those elements I mentioned above (or similar ones), put them into a linear pattern with formulaic characters and, voila! -- a novel that wastes the paper it's printed on.

Or you can subvert that notion (horror is supposed to subvert) and write a damned good, entertaining novel centered on characters who feel and about whom the reader feels (horror is emotion).

That's what Tananarive Due has done with The Good House. She's done it with skill and her own unique imprint. She even manages to successfully accomplish an audacious dénouement that makes you want to stand up and cheer.

Cover The Good House boiled down to the elements to which reviewers can boil novels: For nearly a century, the Good House has stood on its forested 60 acres near the small Washington state town of Sacajawea. Angela Toussaint is its current owner and the grandmére who raised her, Marie, owned the Good House before her. Although a successful Los Angeles lawyer, Angela still lives in the house during the summers when she has custody of her teenaged son, Corey. Angela and Tariq, Corey's father, have been separated for four years and during most of the school year, Corey lives with his father in Oakland. This summer Tariq has shown up and there's a real possibility of reviving the marriage. Then, during a Fourth of July party, Corey inexplicably kills himself. Two years later, after dealing with the loss of everything she loved, near-psychosis, and continued anguish, Angie goes back to the Good House. Things have not gone well in Sacajawea. You might even say there's a malignancy hanging over the community that increases with Angie's arrival -- a malignancy that is killing people. She discovers that Corey had found a Book of Mysteries, left by Granmama Marie. He attempted to sort out a demonic mess on his own. Although Angie had always disregarded any hint of such, Marie Toussaint was a powerful voodoo manbo descended from countless generations of magic-makers. As a result of Marie's fear of and anger against murderous racists, she once unleashed a demon-spirit -- a baka -- along with great calamity. Time has come for the baka to be dealt with. With the human help of her high school sweetheart, Myles Fisher, and the spiritual help of her ancestors, Angela uncovers the true history of her family and must confront deadly Evil.

Due deftly cuts between three stories -- Marie's, Angela's, and Corey's -- and, through her believable characters, utterly convinces us that all the supernatural happenings, beings, and beliefs are undeniably true.

An accomplished writer to begin with, Due's skills are honed with each new venture into fiction. After a "time-out" to write one non-fiction book and co-write (with her mother) another, The Good House is her return to horror. This is a very "American" horror novel. It's deeply rooted in both the good and bad of American culture and history. It's also flat out good story-telling. These qualities combine in The Good House and prove Tananarive Due -- an African-American woman from the south -- is the undisputable heiress to Stephen King's supernatural turf.

Ain't that America? -- From Cemetery Dance #47

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Copyright © 2004 Paula Guran. All Rights Reserved.