Review: A House at the Bottom of a Lake by Josh Malerman

Rating: 8.0/10

Synopsis

Both seventeen. Both afraid. But both saying yes.

It sounded like the perfect first date: canoeing across a chain of lakes, sandwiches and beer in the cooler. But teenagers Amelia and James discover something below the water’s surface that changes their lives forever.

It’s got two stories.

It’s got a garden.

And the front door is open.

It’s a house at the bottom of a lake.

For the teens, there is only one rule: no questions. And yet, how could a place so spectacular come with no price tag? While the duo plays house beneath the waves, one reality remains:

Just because a house is empty, doesn’t mean nobody’s home.

Review

Thanks to the publisher and author for an advance reading copy of A House at the Bottom of a Lake for review consideration. This did not influence my thoughts or opinions.

A House at the Bottom of a Lake is the most eerily beautiful novella I’ve ever read. Malerman’s prose had me as addicted to the house as his characters, and I was disappointed when I was promptly asked to leave.

I’m all for a story by Malerman, but bring in a house at the bottom of a lake? SOLD. What could be more intriguing than looking just below the water’s surface and seeing a shingled roof? I don’t even know if a ship at the bottom of the ocean comes close; and while I came into the novella going off simply the title, author, and cover, I was definitely surprised to find a love story within its pages. Can he pull it off?

The answer is yes.

But, while I feel that this tale by Malerman will garner reactions similar to that of I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid (polar opposite reactions from readers that range from love to extreme dislike – hate is too strong a word for a book), I believe the majority of readers will have mixed feelings; especially those who have come to love the author for his originality and how the ideas swirling around in his mind become ink on a page. Do not expect this story to be wrapped with a nice little bow by the end; rather, covered in silt. Much like Bird box (though now, we have the sequel, Malorie), it is left quite open-ended and left up to your own interpretation. Sometimes, that isn’t necessarily a bad thin.

Those that arrive at this novella expecting an outright horror story will be extremely disappointed. This is a coming of age love story with magical realism and mystery, but some eeriness is definitely peppered in. In all honesty, it is just Malerman’s prose in motion and beautifully told story. If you can finish the story with “no hows or whys” thrown around like the characters within, I think you’ll find immense satisfaction.

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