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Book Review: The September House by Carissa Orlando
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The September House
Hardcover | Kindle | Audiobook
By Carissa Orlando
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: September 5, 2023

Bleeding walls, nightly screams, and mutilated apparitions are what Margaret and Hal are up against in their new home every September in The September House, the debut novel from Carissa Orlando. When the empty-nesters first moved in, this large, beautiful, and surprisingly affordable Victorian domicile was their dream home. But with their fourth September as homeowners fast approaching, Hal has had enough of this place and its eerie inhabitants. He wants his wife to move out with him, but Margaret refuses because as strange as it may seem, this is the only place she’s ever been able to call her own. Sure, the ghosts can be menacing and there’s some kind of evil lurking in the basement, but there’s also a live-in housekeeper… albeit a dead one, but she’s actually really good at her job. Margaret has figured out the “rules” of the house to follow in order to maintain the status quo and make it through to October; therefore, she’s staying put. But after Hal suddenly leaves, their daughter, Katherine, becomes suspicious. Where did her father go and why isn’t he answering her calls? When Katherine insists on visiting her parents’ new home for the first time during September of all months, Margaret struggles to keep up appearances as the hauntings become more frequently intense.

The lengths to which Margaret will go to peacefully cohabitate with the spirits and keep the hauntings at bay are almost farcical at times. Not to say that this is a lighthearted experience for Margaret — there’s still an extremely dark and dangerous side to this old Victorian that requires frequent exorcisms and grave exhumations, amongst other precautionary measures. But her interactions with the other residents have become an ordinary part of her everyday life. For instance, she enjoys afternoon tea with Fredricka, the helpful housekeeper, whose countenance still bears the disfigurement from her murder in the house long ago.

Once Katherine arrives, though, Margaret is unable to maintain her daily routine and rituals. Katherine repeatedly catches her mother talking to people who seemingly aren’t there; there’s always a kettle burning on the stove when no one’s in the kitchen (there’s that tea again!); the furniture and other household items keep being moved around or wildly misplaced. This causes Katherine great concern, on top of her worries about her missing father. After a while, Margaret’s sanity is called into question and it’s unclear as to what’s real, especially since the story is told from Margaret’s perspective.

Slowly, but surely, everyone’s backstory is revealed, along with the house’s history. Who lived there? Who are these poltergeists and why do they behave as they do? What do the neighbors think? Why is Margaret willing to stay under these circumstances? Why isn’t Hal? Can a middle-aged artist/housewife and a group of disfigured ghosts live together without driving each other crazy?

While Orlando includes many aspects expected in a ghost story, such as bleeding walls, things that go bump in the night, and materializing spirits who want the humans to leave, she also provides a refreshing take on the genre with its protagonist who not only refuses to leave her haunted dwelling, but doesn’t even try to rid it of its supernatural beings! She just wants to harmoniously coexist. The author has a doctorate in clinical-community psychology and she puts it to good use by delving into the psychological motivations and trauma of the characters, with a spotlight on mental illness awareness. In the end, this is a story about a woman who repeatedly chooses to stay and the hell she’s willing to go through to keep what is hers, including her sanity. Is she a pushover or is she a survivor? Captivating, thrilling, and unique, The September House is a satisfying haunted house tale that blends traditional horror elements and dark humor with a psychological twist for an enjoyable, quick read that’s perfect for – you guessed it! – September!

Official Synopis

“Why run from a haunted house when you can stay and ignore the ghosts? Just when you thought you’d seen everything a haunted house novel could do, The September House comes along and delivers an eerie, darkly funny, and emotionally grounded book about the ghosts that haunt houses and marriages.”– Grady Hendrix, New York Times bestselling author of How to Sell a Haunted House

A woman is determined to stay in her dream home even after it becomes a haunted nightmare in this compulsively readable, twisty, and layered debut novel.

When Margaret and her husband Hal bought the large Victorian house on Hawthorn Street—for sale at a surprisingly reasonable price—they couldn’t believe they finally had a home of their own. Then they discovered the hauntings. Every September, the walls drip blood. The ghosts of former inhabitants appear, and all of them are terrified of something that lurks in the basement. Most people would flee.

Margaret is not most people.

Margaret is staying. It’s her house. But after four years Hal can’t take it anymore, and he leaves abruptly. Now, he’s not returning calls, and their daughter Katherine—who knows nothing about the hauntings—arrives, intent on looking for her missing father. To make things worse, September has just begun, and with every attempt Margaret and Katherine make at finding Hal, the hauntings grow more harrowing, because there are some secrets the house needs to keep.

Hardcover: 352 pages; Book Dimensions: 6.23 x 1.2 x 9.29 inches

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