Wednesday, November 26, 2014

ROOMS by Lauren Oliver

I’m not big on ghost stories, because they seem a little silly to me.  In this case, the ghosts are two women who inhabited the same house at different times.  The latest inhabitant, Richard Walker, has died, and his estranged family have come for the funeral and to clean out the house.  Ex-wife Caroline is the alcoholic mother of Trenton, a melancholy teenager, and his much older acerbic sister Minna, who has a toddler of her own.  Minna is basically a sex addict, but all three of these characters are so maladjusted that the ghosts, Alice and Sandra, seem relatively sane by comparison.  Sandra died in the house of a gunshot wound, and Alice’s memories are equally depressing, without such a violent finale.  As you can see, this is not exactly an upbeat story.  It has a few twists but nothing really jaw-dropping, and I kept having to back up to see which of the ghosts was narrating.  Their stories don’t directly relate to the lives of the living, and the author made such an effort to delay telling us Alice’s and Sandra’s histories that the shock value had lost most of its punch, and the histories were too segmented for me to become immersed in.  Only Richard really seemed to have had a zest for living, and now he’s gone.  Also, our view of him is skewed by the warped opinions of his family, so that we never have a real grasp of who he was.  Trenton is the one we root for, but with this bunch surrounding him, he doesn’t really stand a chance.  A third ghost joins the party late in the book.  Trenton is aware of her presence and finds her intriguing enough to give him a reason to keep on living, but, ironically, she beckons to Trenton to come join her on the other side.

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