Published: January 17, 2023
Pages: 400 (Hardcover)
My Rating: 4.0/5.0
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Your past and your family can haunt you like nothing else… A hilarious and terrifying new novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Final Girl Support Group.
Every childhood home is haunted, and each of us are possessed by our parents.
When their parents die at the tail end of the coronavirus pandemic, Louise and Mark Joyner are devastated but nothing can prepare them for how bad things are about to get. The two siblings are almost totally estranged, and couldn’t be more different. Now, however, they don’t have a choice but to get along. The virus has passed, and both of them are facing bank accounts ravaged by the economic meltdown. Their one asset? Their childhood home. They need to get it on the market as soon as possible because they need the money. Yet before her parents died they taped newspaper over the mirrors and nailed shut the attic door.
Sometimes we feel like puppets, controlled by our upbringing and our genes. Sometimes we feel like our parents treat us like toys, or playthings, or even dolls. The past can ground us, teach us, and keep us safe. It can also trap us, and bind us, and suffocate the life out of us. As disturbing events stack up in the house, Louise and Mark have to learn that sometimes the only way to break away from the past, sometimes the only way to sell a haunted house, is to burn it all down.
After being thoroughly disturbed by The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires, I wasn’t sure I would pick up another Grady Hendrix book. I am a wuss. I don’t like super scary stuff and the vampires in that book still make me shiver. How to Sell a Haunted House intrigued me because I do like a good ghost story sometimes and I thought this was going to lean more in that direction than it did.
Louise and Mark Joyner could hardly be more different siblings. Louise is driven, commanding, and successful enough to live comfortably in the Bay area. Mark dropped out of college, has flitted from one get rich quick scheme to the next, and still lives in the Charleston area. When their parents are killed in a car accident the two siblings must come together to clean out the house and get it ready for the market. Unfortunately, it’s haunted and in the south that’s going to be a tough sell. The house is filled with art of all sorts – a squirrel nativity, seashell covered picture frames – but Nancy Joyner’s most prized possessions were her puppets. She had a room full of handmade puppets she used in her puppet ministry. If you’ve now made the assumption that the puppets are haunted then you would be correct. It was the creepiest thing I’ve read since the last Grady Hendrix book.
While ultimately, this is without a doubt a horror story, it also explores grief, childhood trauma, and family ties. I got to the 130 page mark and considered DNF’ing just because this whole family was just horrible. Louise and Mark squabbled like children and made dramatic scenes over funeral arrangements, inheritance splits, etc. They were so unlikable until about halfway through, then they sat down and actually had a meaningful conversation and began behaving like adults trying to solve a problem. Grady Hendrix really knows how to do southern, suburbian horror because if we’re being real, some people’s families are worse than dealing with a haunted, mind controlling puppet. I appreciated that the flashback chapters to Mark and Louise’s younger years slowly revealed all these new details and in some aspects, were more terrifying than the present situation. I’m particularly thinking of Mark’s year at college – yeesh!
Overall, I had a good time reading this though this might seriously give me nightmares. Even though I was disturbed and didn’t like Mark or Louise much, I really didn’t want to put it down and read it in a couple sittings. This was a good blend of psychological horror, family drama, and a bit of violence. If haunted puppets or dolls aren’t your thing then don’t read this. This probably won’t be my last book by this author, though I can’t read too many books like this all at once!
PS – I am still dying inside over the squirrel scene and I will probably never forget it.
I loved the chapter about Mark at college, that’s when I started to like his character. And omg the squirrels!
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Yes, he was just a huge jersey and that chapter really humanized him to the point that I at least understood why he was a jerk!
Yes, there were some parts that were BRUTAL! Not that I need more nightmare fuel, I already hate dolls and puppets!
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Yes, I though dolls/puppets were vaguely creepy before… but now I have actual horrible scenes in my brain 😬😬