Book Review: 'The Good House'
Angela Toussaint believed her life was finally getting back on track before her son, Cory, took his own life in her grandmother’s basement. Grief-stricken, Angela throws herself into anything to keep her misery at bay: her Hollywood talent agency, her law practice, and marathon training. But there is no outrunning her suffering. The only place that had ever given her solace was her late grandmother’s home in Sacajawea, Washington. But, with the horrific circumstance, her late grandmother’s residence is a difficult place to be. Unbeknownst to Angela, this house, known as The Good House to locals, is also where her grandmother Marie banished an evil spirit, spurning a fight between good and evil that would span three generations. Angela must confront the evil that has tainted the land, the house, and her family.
The Good House is a horror novel by award-winning author Tananarive Due. With a deft hand a-tuned to creating characters appallingly human in their passions and flaws, Due delves into themes ripe for a haunted house story: family, legacy, community, and skeletons in the closet. The human condition drives the story in The Good House. Marie, Angela, and Cory are three generations of Toussaints dealing with the same evil, and do so, so differently from one another that their individuality shines through. Humanity—our strengths, weaknesses, urges, and aches—is told through the horrors Angela and her family must face. While the evil spirit is the supernatural force in the novel, the characters’ decisions on how they deal (or don’t deal) with the entity is what real tension is made of.
The horror genre has long been a way real-life fears, and often sensitive topics, can be digested by a wider audience. The Good House does just that with themes addressing grief, suicide, domestic violence, and racial injustice. These themes are not treated as after thoughts but are interwoven into the tale of a haunted house in such a way that the story could not progress without them. Due’s depiction of the anguish and guilt people may endure during a time of trauma is painful and honest. Angela’s grief and self-isolation are understandable. Marie’s rage and hatred are justifiable. Cory’s fear and defiance are believable. As the story unfolds, Due’s characters develop into heroes or monsters, successors or failures, with every decision leading them to their fate. Their humanity allows the delicate themes of The Good House to be expressed in a way that feels real.
Importantly, horror fans looking for strong, female characters of color will delight in this terrifying novel. Angela Toussaint continues to deal with everyday prejudices as a Black woman while she grieves for her son and combats a supernatural evil. Angela’s heritage is an intricate part of who she is and a powerful driving force. The history of her family and where she came from guide her to her family’s retribution. Due’s ability to texture the novel with these burdens and difficulties makes her characters tangible and relatable to readers of color.
The Good House is a haunted house story updated for today’s diverse reader. A novel about family, community, and the hidden stories we don’t speak of, this supernatural horror tale creates fear and discomfort where most people feel safe—at home.
Author: Tananarive Due
Publisher: Atria Books
Cover photo courtesy of Atria Books