Quick Review – How to Sell a Haunted House by Grady Hendrix

How to Sell a Haunted House Cover

Publisher: Titan Books (Trade Paperback – 17 January 2023)

Series: Standalone

Length: 399 pages

My Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars

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One of the leading authors of modern horror fiction, Grady Hendrix, returns with another fantastic read, this time taking on the classic haunted house tale and putting his own unique spin on it.

Few horror authors are getting the recognition these days that the intriguing Grady Hendrix is, and for very good reason.  A veteran author and screenwriter, Hendrix has made his name in recent years with his string of fun, horror-based novels, including Horrorstör, We Sold Our Souls and The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires.  These outstanding novels all combined classic horror concepts with unique and entertaining scenarios that provided the author’s own twist on the subject, resulting in a ton of rave reviews.  I personally became more familiar with Hendrix when I managed to check out his 2021 release, The Final Girl Support Group.  A compelling take on the concept of final girls in horror films, The Final Girl Support Group ended up being an excellent and elaborate homage to the slasher genre that I had a wonderful time reading.  While horror isn’t my favourite genre, I was very curious when I received a copy of Hendrix latest novel, How to Sell a Haunted House and decided to see what new awesome story this inventive author has come up with.

Plot Synopsis:

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.

How to Sell a Haunted House
was an interesting and complex book from Hendrix that I had a great time getting through.  Focused on his damaged protagonists and the horrors that they have experienced, both in their house and in their lives, this ended up being a particularly deep and moving novel that will get its hooks into you extremely early and refuse to let go.

I honestly wasn’t too certain what to expect from How to Sell a Haunted House when I started reading it, and the book went in some very interesting and surprising directions.  Told over a series of acts based on the stages of grief, this book is initially told from the perspective of Louise Joyner as she returns home after the sudden death of her parents to try and deal with both the funeral and the fate of her childhood home, only to run straight into the emotional wall that is her slacker brother, Mark.  Both have a lot of baggage, especially when it comes to each other, and their initial hostile encounters perfectly set the scene for the family drama that is to come.  The horror elements of How to Sell a Haunted House are initially a little muted, which allows the tension and threat to gently simmer and rise, as the reader knows stuff is going to break down eventually.  The house in question, with its multitude of puppets (so, so many puppets), boarded up attic, freaky occurrences, and more, lends a layer of threat that really sets the scene for the rest of the book.  Despite this, the start of How to Sell a Haunted House is a little slow and I had a bit of a hard time really getting into it.  However, it is really worth continuing into the meat of the story, as Hendrix has a brilliant story ready for you.

The intriguing drama slowly builds as the book continues, and the reader is introduced to the masses of baggage between Louise and Mark.  This becomes a big part of the book’s plot and soul, and you really get drawn into their very complex relationship which has been influenced by events outside of their control without them even realising.  Other compelling family elements are thrown into the mix at this point as well, and these slowly boil up throughout the book and influence the conclusion in some clever ways.  It doesn’t take long for the major horror elements of the book to fully take over and partially distract the reader away from Louise and Mark’s many personal issues.  The focus of what is causing the chaos in their house is expertly revealed, and the revelation is very freaky, especially when you fully understand what it is and how it has affected the protagonists all these years.  I really loved how Hendrix blended the complex family ties of the protagonists with the disturbing presence in their house, and it results in a particularly impressive, character-driven story.  There are some great early confrontations with this presence which Hendrix showcases extremely well, emphasising the physical, spiritual and emotional danger that comes with each encounter, as well as the hidden revelations that are simultaneously brought to the surface.  There are some fascinating moments set around these encounters, and I loved how there was a constant focus on family throughout, as well as a surprisingly detailed look at the history of puppets (seriously, you will never look at puppets again after this book).

Hendrix brings everything to an excellent and crashing crescendo which left me with a real appreciation for the author’s impressive imagination and writing ability.  There is an excellent false victory for the protagonists, which comes at such a substantial cost that you almost believe it could be the end.  However, the full evil is yet to come, and after a great reveal sequence, you realise just how insidious the force they are facing truly is.  The way that the story wraps up is pretty scary in places, but it is also extremely heartfelt and emotionally impactful, as family history and complex character dynamics come full circle.  I ended up getting really caught up in the story behind How to Sell a Haunted House, even though horror isn’t my preferred genre, and I loved all the emotional storylines and character arcs that were brought together as a result.

This is an overall pretty exceptional read, and I am glad that I took the time to check out Hendrix’s new book.  How to Sell a Haunted House is a must read for all those familiar with Hendrix unique and powerful style, and new readers will have a blast getting caught up in the author’s immense inventiveness.  A strongly recommended read that will stick with me for a very long time.

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One thought on “Quick Review – How to Sell a Haunted House by Grady Hendrix

  1. Pingback: Canberra Weekly Column – Mixed Genre – 23 March 2023 – The Unseen Library

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