By Lauren Oliver
A tale of family, ghosts, secrets, and mystery, in which the lives of the living and the dead intersect in shocking, surprising, and moving ways
Wealthy Richard Walker has just died, leaving behind his country house full of rooms packed with the detritus of a lifetime. His estranged family—bitter ex-wife Caroline, troubled teenage son Trenton, and unforgiving daughter Minna—have arrived for their inheritance.
But the Walkers are not alone. Prim Alice and the cynical Sandra, long dead former residents bound to the house, linger within its claustrophobic walls. Jostling for space, memory, and supremacy, they observe the family, trading barbs and reminiscences about their past lives. Though their voices cannot be heard, Alice and Sandra speak through the house itself—in the hiss of the radiator, a creak in the stairs, the dimming of a light bulb.
The living and dead are each haunted by painful truths that will soon surface with explosive force. When a new ghost appears, and Trenton begins to communicate with her, the spirit and human worlds collide—with cataclysmic results.
This was my first buddy read in quite a few years. I am horrible with them typically. My previous experience was with a friend who happened to decide we should read Pillars of the Earth (read it if you have not). That was the first mistake. It is daunting and tedious at times. Yes, I am still telling you to read it, just not with a buddy. It turns out that our reading paces were two different modes. It was a bad episode of the Tortoise and the Hare and no real discussion was gained. In fact, it resulted in a lot of frustration. So I swore of “buddy” reads.
Then the funniest thing occurred. Debby @alwaysbooking and I began kicking that term around again. Then I received this beautiful Christmas card and a lovely book Rooms by Lauren Oliver in my mail from none other than, you guessed it, Debby! Suddenly I was all for it. I not only wanted to buddy read, I was excited to do so. And that is what we did. Check out Debby’s wonderful review of her own experience here!
Okay, so let me just confess before I go any further, I knew nothing of this book before Debby sent it to me. But as soon as I read the blurb and was informed by several bloggers that it was amazing, it was go time. And it did not disappoint. But explaining exactly what I experienced with Rooms is going to be a challenge. It was not what I was expecting, but I am not sure my own expectations were very clear.
First of all, this book is one big heaping pile of mess. I do not mean that in the sense that the story is improperly executed, because if anything, this is probably where Rooms shines the most for me. The execution is flawless! What I am telling you, is that this is a story surrounding several very dysfunctional and broken lives. The cast of characters are seriously suffering issues. There are no “feel good” moments to be had. Seek those out in another title. These pages are teeming with memories. Memories that are elegantly presented in a way that weaves an eerily magical and fantastic tale of lives entwined and the home they have built and become attached to.
“Memory is as thick as mud. It rises up, it overwhelms. It sucks you down and freezes you where you stand. Thrash and kick and gnash your teeth. There’s no escaping it.”
― Lauren Oliver,
The characters presented to us range from previous occupants Alice and Sandra who now take up residence within the walls of the home in Coral River and the most recent owner’s family that has come to tend to affairs after his passing. We have a bitter ex-wife Caroline, a lonely and desperate daughter and single mother Minna, and a socially withdrawn and depressed teenage son Trenton. Finding the ability to love this family is no easy task, as they arrive with some pretty intense baggage. Caroline is determined to drown her feelings in vodka, while Minna fills the void inside her with vanity and promiscuity. Trenton is on the verge of suicide and quickly learns he is not the only lost soul within the home. Seriously, they are a train wreck. It was their sorrow though that continually drew me to each of them. Through all of the chaos that is their lives, there is pain that can be seen. On that level I found my ability to connect and appreciate.
Narration is provided as courtesy of the two deceased residents, Alice and Sandra. They occupy every space of the home and seem to have actually become a large part of the home over the years. Unable to escape the walls within or one another, the events that unfold as Richard Walker’s family prepares for his memorial service are seen through their eyes. There are an unrelenting presence.
“I can’t stop thinking about what Caroline said to Minna about death. It isn’t an infection, she said. She might be right. Then again, we’ve nested in the walls like bacteria. We’ve taken over the house, its insulation and its plumbing – we’ve made it our own. Or maybe it’s life that’s the infection: a feverish dream, a hallucination of feelings. Death is purification, a cleaning, a cure.”
― Lauren Oliver,
But this is not your average ghost story. This is a story about life, the choices we make, our abilities to cope and eventually let go. Sometimes it is not always a ghosts that haunts us, but our own past and regrets.
Broken into 11 parts (each centered upon a room of the house) we are taken on a journey that dives deep into human relationships, the memories that are built and the objects that those memories can become attached to. The author presents a raw confrontation of life in the most hauntingly and beautiful manner. The exquisite and almost poetic writing flawlessly creates a melancholic tale that resonates long after the final page. Rooms is now shelved as a favorite for me.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐