If you want to read the spoiler, highlight between the two ♈ symbols. For those using the Word Press Reader: the text between the two symbols won’t be hidden – so if you don’t want the story to be spoiled, look away when you get to the ♈ symbols or visit my actual site to avoid them.
Wow, what a great modern take with a fresh idea on the old ghost story/haunted house trope. The Invited is the story of Helen and Nate, a husband wife duo, who abandon the comforts of suburbia (and a steady source of income) to build the house of their dreams on a 44 acre plot of rural land. Upon their arrival, they learn that their land has a violent past, which spurs Helen’s intrigue as she used to be a history teacher in her past life. Helen digs in to the history of the place and tries to find as much as she can about their property and Hattie Breckenridge, the woman who met her unfortunate end there. Helen finds different pieces to add to their home-build from around the area that somehow relate back to Hattie and her descendants.
First of all, I have never felt more seen by a main character than I have by Helen. She’s like, my bookelganger. Helen and Nate are your typical suburban husband wife team who are just living the daily grind between work, friends, and their own personal hobbies, when Nate asks Helen what would make her happy. Helen, being the history buff that she is, wants to live in an old house somewhere in the middle of nowhere, and essentially just live peacefully off the land. And wow, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had those same exact thoughts. That’s what I like to call my “lottery dream.” Though in this case, Helen and Nate have limited funds and discover that it would actually be cheaper to build their own “historic” house than it would be to buy one for cheap and then sink all of their money in to making it livable. But Helen and I share a love for history, ghost stories, doing things yourself, living in a rural setting, and supporting your partner. Like I’m pretty sure her character is based off of me. I’m not a history teacher or anything, but the rest of it is pretty much spot on.
As far as the story goes, I totally guessed who was behind it pretty early on in the book. I always like to make a prediction when it comes to mysteries and thrillers just to see how close I get, and I’m never sure how I feel about getting it right. In this case, I don’t think the hints were too heavy-handed, but they were present enough for me to catch on. The story is told in alternating perspectives with the main POVs being from Helen and Olive. Olive is a little girl who lives on the property that neighbors the land that Helen and Nate are building on. And as a bonus, we also get a chapter each from Hattie and her descendants.
There are two things that I want to talk about that kind of venture in to spoiler territory:
🚨🚨🚨 BRACE YOURSELF FOR THE SPOILERS 🚨🚨🚨
♈ Item 1: When Helen brings the first object to put in the house, the beam – I was totally with the idea. After all, Hattie Breckenridge was hanged in the bog and Helen felt that incorporating the beam that was made from the tree that she was hanged from was a nod of some sort to Hattie’s history. I totally see how it was really well meant. But once Helen realizes that the items that she’s incorporating in to the house are actually “inviting” the ghosts to show up and terrorize her she just keeps doing it. To be fair, I guess, they aren’t really terrorizing her, they’re trying to communicate the fact that a descendant of Hattie’s is currently in danger, but – they pretty much appear as they died. Which is terrifying. But Helen keeps bringing items in. Like the mantel that was in the house of Hattie’s granddaughter and witnessed her murder and husband’s subsequent suicide. That to me was taking it a little too far. This is where Helen and I kind of had our split because I don’t think that I would feature such macabre pieces in my house. And we really don’t learn whether or not the ghostly activity calms down once Hattie’s descendant, Olive, is out of danger. Which brings me to Item 2: did saving Olive resolve Hattie’s goal? Did it thereby remove the curse from her descendants? Does this mean that Helen’s house would no longer be haunted? There were just a few small loose ends that didn’t get tied up neatly, and these are what prevented me from loving this book and thinking it was amazing. ♈
So other than my tiny little complaint above, I still really liked this book. It was an interesting read and I really enjoyed all of the characters. I loved this new (at least new to me) spin on the classic ghost story/haunted house. If you’re looking for a contemporary book to read this Halloween, look no farther than The Invited.
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Have you come across your bookelganger yet? Helen believes that objects can hold traces of the people who owned them if they meant a lot to them, so, what object of yours would hold traces of you?