The Fiction Fox
Review: How to Sell a Haunted House - Grady Hendrix
Updated: May 17
Published: Berkley Press, January 2023
My Rating: 5/5 stars
"Shit," Mark said. "There's a lot of dolls..."
Leave it up to Grady Hendrix to take a trope I think I'm going to hate and make it into something thoroughly enjoyable! I was introduced to this author when I read Horrorstör, expecting to hate it because the concept of a haunted Ikea was so balls-to-the-wall, I couldn't imagine it being anything but a gimmick. But after the great time I had with that book, even upon recent re-read, I decided to give Hendrix' latest release a try. What I got was a combination of his familiar lighthearted wit and horror-comedy, but combined with a far more mature and emotional family story at the core, into what I feel is his best release to date.
How to Sell a Haunted House follows estranged siblings Mark and Louise, forced to return to their family-home in Charleston after the sudden and unexpected death of their parents in a car crash. Each with separate and troubled lives of their own, neither of them are excited for a family-reunion. They plan on a quick funeral and selling of the house that holds many mixed memories for the both of them.
Upon inspection of the house however, they find even stranger things than the horded remnants of their fathers academic career and their mothers eerie puppet-collection. In order to move on, Mark and Louise must confront a haunting that has shaped their lives and childhoods forever.
"How've you ignored it for so long?" Louise asked. "It's what we do" Mark said. "Our whole family functions on secrets".
A book this rife with classic horror-tropes (and subversions of them!) calls for a classic-comp-title. For me, this is a perfect marriage of the creepy-puppet-horror-comedy elements of Chucky, the spooky house of The Conjuring, and the slightest hint of the emotionally mature family-dynamics, trauma and grief of The Haunting of Hill House (the Netflix Adaptation). The latter can even be seen in the structure of the novel itself, following the classic Kübler-Ross stages of grief, just like the Netflix-series.
This combo might not sound like it would work, but Hendrix pulls it off perfectly.
Don’t expect something too profound here: despite the deeper layer real-life horrors like childhood trauma, parenthood, grief and the impermanence of life, this is primarily book that delights in its own campiness. If you’re in the mood for a fast-paced and fun take on the golden haunted-house-trope that mixes an adorably dysfunctional set of protagonists with supernatural spooks a bit on the silly side; this one is for you.
"Mothering, manipulation - sometimes there wasn't a difference. She'd learned that from her mum."
Campy horror tends not to be my cup of tea, but there’s the occasional exception that I really enjoy. How to Sell a Haunted House was that exception for me. I had an unexpected amount of fun, and would absolutely recommend it.
Find this book on Goodreads.