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Sunday, April 3, 2016

Harmony House by Nic Sheff

Jen Noonan’s father thinks a move to Harmony House is the key to salvation, but to everyone who has lived there before, it is a portal to pure horror.
After Jen’s alcoholic mother’s death, her father cracked. He dragged Jen to this dilapidated old manor on the shore of New Jersey to “start their new lives”—but Harmony House is more than just a creepy old estate. It’s got a chilling past—and the more Jen discovers its secrets, the more the house awakens. Strange visions follow Jen wherever she goes, and her father’s already-fragile sanity disintegrates before her eyes. As the forces in the house join together to terrorize Jen, she must find a way to escape the past she didn’t know was haunting her—and the mysterious and terrible power she didn’t realize she had

Let's start with this: Wow that was fucking INTENSE.

Jen and her dad move into Harmony House, an old Gothic manor that has been turned into a hotel. Just like in The Shining, they are to stay the winter and take care of the place. Just like in The Shining Jen's dad goes fucking crazy, but unlike Jack Torrance, he becomes even more of a religious zealot into praying, fasting , self punishing and slapping his kid around when she "sins." After moving in Jen starts having visions of the past and the history of Harmony House and how her family is related to the creepy, moldy, monstrosity. She also spends 90% of the novel vomiting.

This book was pretty good. I felt like it could have been a bit longer and might have been better written for literary fiction instead of young adult. There are some disturbing scenes, so trigger warnings for child abuse and infant loss. The miscarriage scene is a bit of a joke though, very obviously written by a man. Even with trauma a pregnant girl would feel intense pain miscarrying if she were far along enough for the stick to turn pink and be sick all the time. I know I've been there more than once. There is an almost rape scene as well and the themes got into drug and alcohol dependency/abuse. (Not surprising as two of his other books are memoirs about drug abuse.)

There are a few great twists and turns in this book and I cannot stress enough that this novel was macabre and dread inspiring, though not quite frightening.

This book has pretty much no romance and aside from Jen, Colin and her father the secondary characters don't have a lot of depth to them and seemed to be thrown hap haphazardly into the mix. Rose, the older diner woman, for instance should have had a bigger role with more of a backstory. Almost as if the author didn't give much thought to anything but the basic "haunted house" style plot line. I felt the ending was a bit abrupt.

The pacing of the story is a little brisk for my taste, but it flowed nicely and the descriptions made me feel like I was in the old, rotting, dusty house and deep woods.  I enjoyed this book quite a bit and it was a fast, freaky, dark and slightly depressing read.

There is no happy ending to Harmony House, choose something cheerful for afterwards, you'll thank me.

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