T. Kingfisher’s A House with Good Bones

3CC6885E-14E8-427D-A749-BBBD5DF10F83Samantha (Sam) Montgomery is an archaeoentomologist, returned

for a rare extended visit to her mother’s home in North Carolina. She’s been looking forward to it, is excited as she approaches the house, and initially not that worried by her brother’s warning that “Mom seems off.”

Then she walks inside, and the cozy clutter and lively colors of her mother’s house are gone. Most of the walls are various shades of white (Sam is especially horrified by the ecru), while her own old room is rose. Her mother seems oddly timid, and has reimposed her own mother’s, Gran Mae’s, rules, of no swearing, grace before meals, and suggesting more modest clothing. What is she afraid of?

Other oddities soon become apparent. Although Mrs. Montgomery does no gardening, and has no gardener — just a neighbor she pays for mowing and handyman-type tasks — her mother, Sam’s grandmother’s, roses are thriving. Stranger than that, there are no insects in the garden, or anywhere on the property. Gardens need insects to thrive.

Sam starts reconnecting with other neighbors, including the woman her grandmother called “an evil old witch.” The one with the “witch’s garden,” or perhaps, just a garden of native plants in a more natural layout.

There’s something definitely strange about those roses. Some very disturbing features of Gran Mae’s decorating, such as the picture of a Confederate wedding, have reappeared. And Sam is starting to hear voices, in her dreams and in a state called “sleep paralysis,” which is all too familiar to me. You wake up, but not entirely. Not enough to turn off the protective immobilization of the voluntary muscles that keeps us from sleepwalking. There’s often a sense of a threatening presence. Sam is experiencing this, or thinks she is.

Sometimes she hears the voices while awake, elsewhere in the house. They’re telling her to leave. Her brother reminds her of the “underground children” Gran Mae told them stories of.

Sam starts digging for an explanation, behind what’s going on, though everyone is telling her not to. That not all questions need answers. That some questions are better not answered.

Sam is a smart, funny, sarcastic woman, easy to like and care about. Other characters grow in depth and complexity as Sam gets to know them.

I haven’t even mentioned either the ladybugs or the vultures.

The story told in Sam’s funny, sarcastic voice builds toward a genuine horror ending.

Altogether enjoyable, and well-narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal.

Lis Carey

I'm a librarian, blogger, dog lover, cat lover, science fiction fan, student of history, and enthusiast of facts and information of all kinds. I love tracking down the answers to odd questions, and connecting people with the information they need. My professional background includes law firms, biotechnology R&D, and academic and public libraries.

More Posts - Website