Genre: Haunted house
Published: Feb. 18, 2003
By the same author: Bastion Falls, A Dry Spell
From above, there's the thud of something falling over in the attic. Then, the sound of something being dragged across the floor. Everyone in Susie Moloney's The Dwelling hears this eventually, takes note of it and goes about his or her business. That's one thing I really like about this haunted house tale – the idea that people have the ability to ignore just about anything, no matter how horrible, in order to carry on with life. Even if Moloney's framing of the novel – three families move in and out while the life of realtor Glenn Darnley disintegrates in interludes between them – is an idea that has been done before (see Anne Rivers Siddons' brilliant The House Next Door), it serves her well. Her greatest strength is arguably characterization, and here she has a field day with a large cast of troubled souls: first, a young couple whose marriage is strained by ambition and intimacy issues; then, a recent divorcee and her awkward child, both struggling just to get through any given day; finally, a novelist with writer's block and a growing problem with alcohol; and the realtor, Glenn, whose husband died suddenly, leaving her to face a personal crisis alone. The haunting manifestations, such as the sound of the bathtub filling upstairs or faint music coming from the small room with the Murphy bed under the stairwell, mostly tend toward light chills, and that works just fine, even if it leaves this more a character study than a frightfest. Some have been critical of the two-page laundry list at the end explaining the source of the various manifestations, and I'll agree to that. The hints dropped along the way really are enough, and the list dulls the impact of a well-executed climax that happens just before. Nevertheless, Moloney is a talent who deserves a broader audience, and this Dwelling is a fine place to pay her a visit.
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