Beneath The Stairs by Jennifer Fawcett
Few in sleepy Sumner’s Mills have stumbled across the Octagon House hidden deep in the woods.
Even fewer are brave enough to trespass.
A man had killed his wife and two young daughters there, a shocking, gruesome crime that the sleepy upstate New York town tried to bury.
One summer night, an emboldened fourteen-year-old Clare and her best friend, Abby, ventured into the Octagon House.
Clare came out, but a piece of Abby never did.
Twenty years later, an adult Clare receives word that Abby has attempted suicide at the Octagon House and now lies in a coma.
With little to lose and still grieving after a personal tragedy, Clare returns to her roots to uncover the darkness responsible for Abby’s accident.
What was it all about
As fourteen year olds did, four girls went to a haunted house; two of them felt something. Those two, Abby and Clare, went back, and Abby was stuck in the basement. She was saved, but the effect of the house was seen in the years, affecting her mental health.
Cut to the adult version of the girl. She went back to the house, got stuck in the basement, apparently with her unopened box of pills and a bottle of coke. She took them both and was found in a dazed state by her brother where she spoke just a name – Clare – then went into a coma.
Now it was unto Clare to get to the beginning of the end. And she only did something at the end – went back to that basement. And what? Nothing. The book ended with a lot of unsaid words.
How it made me feel
Much ado about nothing was a good adage about this book. What the prose hinted at was more than what it really was.
Initially, it was extremely suspenseful, as the atmosphere in the book kept me gripped to the evolving plot line. But the same plot was circled around almost after every few pages, without telling me anything substantial.
I felt the book was on the cusp of greatness, but it fell through the hole of its own expectations. The author, Jennifer Fawcett, probably started with a good draft, but with the unsaid expectations of the editors and all those book doulas who went in shaping the book, the main plot line was left far behind.
I felt the writing had the potential to be stronger than what it was ultimately filtered to. Probably the first draft was stronger as there was something in the writing just at the cusp of it, without being completely explored. That was my gut feeling.
The atmosphere of the haunted house was well done. It was eerie and gave off sinister vibes.
Almost everything else. That sounded harsh. But hear me out. There was haunted house, missing people of the decades gone by, murder of a mother and child, father being incarcerated for their deaths, the other child being brain damaged. Along with Abby being in coma and a glimmer of an outwardly being in the basement.
With such a cast, rarely could a book go bad. But this one did, because all these characters were not used. They were left open-ended, rushingly covered up in the last few pages, wanting the readers to be left with a feeling of – Did it ever happen?
Believe me, we readers never wanted that unless the prose backing it up was so strong that we were completely immersed in the story. This book took the opposite route. The lines were repetitive. The same idea of the blurb was reinforced again and again, that there was something in the basement, hint of the ghosts, then the main character went – oooh, I don’t believe in ghosts – and it started all over again. That was 80% of the book. The last 20%, the main character went down, and suddenly there was the rushed ending, without it solving any of the old mysteries or even the mystery of what actually had happened with Abby. Sigghhh….
This book might work as a literary fiction, but definitely not a thriller or a horror that it purported to me. It didn’t need book fairies to mold it, it needed the author’s own instincts and gut feelings to stick with the original story. Assuming that the author was a good storyteller to begin with.
Could be completely avoided. The cover was good, but had they put the basement door on the front cover, it would have worked better.
Publication Date: February 2022
I downloaded the digital version of the book from an online retail, and this is my journey down its pages, straight from the heart. STRICTLY HONEST and UNBIASED.
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