Becky’s One Hundred and Ninety-First Book Review: “The Missing” by Sarah Langan

“The Missing” by Sarah Langan is a book that I have been reading aloud with FH over the last few months. We keep it in the car to read on long drives, which is why it has taken so long, but we finally finished it last night. My initial assessment upon completion of this book was what a weird fucking book. FH shares this opinion.

The prologue certainly gathered our attention, we don’t know whom is narrating but they paint an intriguing picture. “Through the cracks in my windows and chimney flue, there is only the howling wind, and underneath that, barely discernible screams.” (The Missing, pg 3). The prologue ends with this: “I have a story for you. Forgive me if it seems I’m telling you things that I could not possibly know. This is a small town, and you hear gossip. Besides, the dead do speak.
So gather round, as I used to tell the children during story hour. Gather round.” (The Missing, pg 5). I thought this was definitely an interesting way to start a story. For the rest of the novel we were trying to decide which character was narrating at the beginning.

“The Missing” begins with a class trip. Lois Larkin takes her kids on a field trip and a troublemaker, James Walker, basically is responsible for beginning an epidemic. He sneaks away from the group into the woods where he goes to die. It is only when Lois is back on the bus heading home that she realizes that James is not on the bus. A search party is put together and Lois wanders away from the others. “Lois, the voice said. It came from two places. It licked her ears and sated the itch like rain on a thirsty flower…
…Something moved inside her, and she jumped back and scrambled a few feet from the hole while sliding on her butt so that the legs of her trousers turned dark with soot. The thing peered out from her eyes. She could feel it. An enemy slithering between her ears. Lois, it whispered. Her heart pounded, and for a moment she was tempted to gouge her eyes in order to pull the thing out.” (The Missing, pg 97). I really liked this quote because I think it is a good representation of just how weird Sarah Langan’s writing can be. She doesn’t lack for imagery.

Part of what makes “The Missing” so interesting is that it is told through a few different characters. This lets the reader see how a wide scope of people react to the dire situation the town finds themselves in. One of the main characters is Fenstad Wintrob, a physiatrist with a troubled marriage, one kid away at college, and a rebellious teenager daughter at home. His character makes a dramatic change as the madness in the town unfolds. Some characters fight to survive and others go a different direction. I enjoyed observing how different individuals react to a crisis.

Would I recommend this book? Not to most people, that’s for sure. It is just so strange. It seemed almost like Sarah Langan was creating the strangest thing she could think of and then going to the next level with it to the realm of beyond ridiculous. It certainly kept things interesting. I’m glad that this wasn’t the first book of hers that I had read. Overall I think I enjoyed the book, but it doesn’t really inspire me to pick up more of her work.

Side note – One thing that tends to stick out when reading a book aloud are errors, both spelling and grammatical. I was sad to see that “The Missing” (printed Oct 2007) had more than a few mistakes. Shame on whomever edited this edition. That is all.

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Becky’s One Hundred and Ninth Book Review: “The Haunting of Hill House” by Shirley Jackson

“The Haunting of Hill House” by Shirley Jackson is a classic that I didn’t even know about until I read “Audrey’s Door” by Sarah Langan. It was one of the books that Langan said inspired her to write “Audrey’s Door” (along with “The Tenant” by Roland Topor and a few others I think). After reading and loving “Audrey’s Door” I decided to check out the books that inspired it. “The Haunting of Hill House” was the first that I got my hands on.

The premise of “The Haunting of Hill House” by Shirley Jackson is a group of strangers are invited to participate in a study at Hill House in an attempt to see if any paranormal activity will occur. There is Dr. Montague who does the research and invites several people who have been involved with suspected paranormal activities in the past to participate in his study. Eleanor and Theo both respond and as a condition for using the house, Dr. Montague is required to have Luke stay there as well, a member of the family that currently owns the home.

As soon as the group arrives, everyone is immediately uncomfortable with Hill House. It doesn’t help that in the letters inviting them to Hill House Dr. Montague explicitly states to not stop in the town and not mention that they are heading for Hill House. Eleanor does stop in the town but refrains from mentioning her destination. She finds the town to have a very odd air to it and does not stay long. Once she arrives at Hill House, she is not exactly welcomed with open arms by Mr. Dudley and then she is led to her room by Mrs. Dudley. Neither of whom have much of a personality, and Mrs. Dudley takes things a step further by letting each guest know individually that she leaves before it gets dark. There will be no one to hear you, in the dark, in the night.

Things very quickly become stranger for the guests at Hill House. The group experiences a variety of spooky events including doors closing by themselves and a distinct banging in the night. Very quickly things start to get even weirder and also personal for one of the guests. The book is short, something like two hundred pages and I got through it very quickly. It was quite an entertaining read.

“The Haunting of Hill House” was not only a great book, but has been adapted into a few movies including the 1999 movie ‘The Haunting’ starring Liam Nieson and Catherine Zeta-Jones. It wasn’t until I read this book that I was able to realize how similar it was to the book. There were some changes made of course, but for the most part the movie was true to the book.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I think that it is one of those books that anyone who is a fan of horror/thrillers should read because it has been the inspiration for many of the now-classics. It was a short read too, so it would be great for even those who do not like to read all that much.

Becky’s One Hundred and Second Book Review: “Audrey’s Door” by Sarah Langan

If you ever start to feel like you are losing your mind, you should read “Audrey’s Door”. It will put things in perspective. I think pretty much everyone has a touch of the crazy, but in “Audrey’s Door” the main character is two steps away from a straight-jacket. This book was a total impulse buy. It was being advertised as a book that I could get new for one credit and two bucks shipping on paperbackswap (awesome site by the way). So I saw the cover, judged the book by it and thought that might be good and decided to order it and several others. Cause one is never enough. After going through all that, the book sat on my shelf for months. Finally I picked it up and I was very pleasantly surprised at what I found there.

The main character in this novel is Audrey. She is a young architect with O.C.D. – and by no means a mild case of it. At the beginning of the book, Audrey has just broken up with her fiancé and is looking for somewhere new to live that she could possibly afford. The story is set in New York City, so Audrey knows she’s asking for the impossible really. Eventually, she stumbles across an advertisement for an apartment that is by all means a steal. She finds out that the reason the place is priced that way is because the previous tenant had drown her four children and slit her own wrists. So no one really wanted to live there – but Audrey doesn’t see the harm in moving in because she certainly isn’t going to be murdering anyone. Things quickly get strange.

I really liked the character Audrey. She was massively screwed up and in a way it was comforting. Like, there are times when my life is really overwhelming — but I’m not that bad. I liked her flaws and I liked the way that she thinks. For example, “She’d never met a happy family, and wasn’t quite sure she believed in them. They sounded as Kosher as Scientology Aliens or leprechauns.” (Audrey’s Door, pg 35) or “It’s such hubris to think your problems are bigger than the person’s sitting next to you, just because they have the fortitude not to complain.” (Audrey’s Door, pg 159). Audrey has kind of a ‘fuck you’ attitude, but not because she necessarily thinks she is better than everyone else — she is more-so of the mindset that everyone else is better than her. I liked the change in pace. There are so many protagonists who spend all their time thinking they’re better than everyone else when they are just as much of a screw-up as the rest.

In addition to Audrey being O.C.D., her mother is bipolar and living in an assisted living kind of place. The flashbacks throughout the book to her time growing up with her mother were very revealing. It was really strange to think of what that situation must have been like, “She thought of Betty in a bed, all by herself. One moment an angel, the next, a villain. And the thing is, do you blame the sickness, or its host?” (Audrey’s Door, pg 176).

I don’t want to give too much away because that would spoil it. But I found the book to be sufficiently creepy with a nice air of mystery to it. Plus, as I stated earlier, I really liked the main character. Overall, I think that the author did an excellent job and (surprise, surprise) I went out and got the rest of her books. Her writing is poetic in a way. I especially liked this paragraph towards the end: “No thinking creature can tolerate captivity. In the presence of just four white walls, the mind invents. Stagnant air and locked doors skew perception. Eighty-degree angles turn obtuse. Holes form between joists where bricks no longer neatly meet. Smiles become sneers; love skinned leaves the skeleton of lust; and too much sleep unmoors its dreamer. Without the possibility of freedom, the rituals of living are abandoned. Bathing, eating, cleaning, and even language are lost. Things fall apart, and in the vacuum of their absence, madness nears.” (Audrey’s Door, pg 371).

Would I recommend this book? Most definitely!! I was pleasantly surprised by it and I think “Audrey’s Door” would appeal to a wide audience. I probably wouldn’t recommend it to someone who doesn’t enjoy mystery/horror/thriller novels. But it was a great read and I am really looking forward to reading the rest of the books.