The House On Foster Hill, by Jaime Jo Wright
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Bethany House Publishers. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
It is difficult for me to be a fair judge of this book but I will do my best. Ultimately, while I found much to appreciate in the skill and insight of the author as it related to the fictional but plausible action of this novel, this is not the sort of novel for me, about dark crimes and a creepy house and characters who are subjected to a great deal of psychological terror and violence . That is not to say that this is a bad book, but rather that it brought me no pleasure to read it. The book is written to increase suspense to a high degree and portray deathly peril for the protagonists as well as rape, murder, and sex trafficking. The story also has a complicated family history full of secrets and violence at its heart, with people willing to kill to preserve the dark secrets of a small Wisconsin town viewed as part of a sex trafficking ring from Chicago to Canada and where the voice of women was not well-respected or well-regarded, making even the sexual politics of this novel deeply unpleasant if not repugnant.
The story of the novel, without too many spoilers, has dual female protagonists who share a close connection. Ivy is a memory keeper in a small Wisconsin town who takes it upon herself to memorialize the dead so that they are not forgotten, and she finds herself caught up in a sensational murder mystery when a young woman who has recently given birth is found dead in a hollow tree. Needless to say this mystery is dangerous and leads her into a relationship with a man she loved but lost faith in after the death of her brother when he was absent from the funeral and for the next twelve years. Meanwhile, in the present day a young woman named Paige whose husband was murdered but who got nowhere with the San Diego police goes back “home” to Wisconsin to buy a fixer-upper house with a dark history related to the past and where creepy things keep happening to this day and where she meets a handsome man who helps to protect her and fix up the house. The two plot lines are obviously related and female relatives with changed last names become increasingly important to make sense of how everyone is connected.
There is a great deal that is admirable about the story. The author makes a lot of notes about the redemptive and healing power of love, the way that places and people become magnets for trouble over the course of generations over and over again, and the complicated links between violence and family. The author has clearly done her homework on the logistics of sex trafficking and makes use of that insight in unraveling the mystery of the titular creepy house. The author also has strong beliefs of divine providence that work their way through this book in surprising ways. I did not find pleasure in reading this book, but I did find much to admire and if you have a higher tolerance for Christian horror novels than I do along with themes of sisterhood and patterns of violence against women, you will likely find much to enjoy here. I am clearly not the ideal reader of this book as someone who is both afflicted with PTSD from my own past as well as someone who is deeply offended by feminism as it is frequently portrayed, and this novel manages to trigger both of those sensitivities simultaneously, by no means an easy or praiseworthy achievement.
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