Book Review: The Mourning House by Ronald Malfi

16068961Title: The Mourning House
Author: Ronald Malfi
Genre: Horror, Dark Fiction
Publisher: DarkFuse Publications
Publication Date: December 18th, 2012
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Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for honest review.

Devastated by tragedy, Dr. Sam Hatch is a shadow of his former self. He travels the byroads of America, running away from a past he cannot escape. There is no salvation for him.And then he sees the house. Like a siren, it calls to him. Yet the house is not what it appears to be. Is it a blessing, a gift…or a curse?

The Mourning House is a sad, haunting, emotional story about a man who’s lost it all. Sam lost his wife and baby daughter in a terrible accident that’s haunted him ever since. He can’t stand to live in his house anymore, an empty shell, a memory of his life long gone. He walks through empty rooms and hears his wife’s voice or his daughter’s cries. He runs away from the tragedy, and spends a year traveling from place to place, a refugee without any place to call home. Until he comes upon a creepy old house he instantly feels an attraction to. If it’s because the house seems just as lost as he is, or an entirely different reason, he has no clue, and quite frankly, he doesn’t care. Sam decides to buy the house and starts to renovate. But the more time he spends inside the house, the more he grows convinced he’s not the only one there. He finds his tools in other places that he left them. He hears cries coming from inside the walls. When he tears down the floor, he comes upon the same floor he used to have in his old house. The house is like a puzzle, and Sam is forced to put the pieces together and solve the mystery.

The prose in The Mourning House is sublime. The shrill contrast between the way the first chapter, when life is still happy and good, and the prose in the later chapters, when Sam is on the verge of depression, is amazing. The author did an excellent job portraying Sam’s slow descent into madness from the moment he steps into the creepy, old house. As I read through the novella, I felt the house come to life page by page. The constant question troubling me was: is the house haunted, or is just a puzzle? Is it perhaps all in Sam’s mind? Or maybe even both? I love stories that keep me guessing, and this certainly did. Sam’s thoughts are, at moments, all over the place, juggling between the past and present, and this intrigued me endlessly. I still don’t know absolutely sure what was for real, and what was a trick of Sam’s imagination, but that doesn’t bother me in the slightest.

The atmosphere of the house was well-executed as well. At first, it didn’t seem that terrifying: just a creepy old house that somehow called out to Sam. But the longer he spend in the house, the more claustrophobic it became, as if it was closing in on him, and as a reader, I could feel this as well: in the dialogue, in the narrative, in the general vibe I got from reading. By the time I finished reading, I had the feeling the walls of my bedroom were closing in on me. That’s the difference between a great author and an excellent author, and in my opinion, Ronald Malfi, definitely ranks in the latter category.

I recommend this book to all haunted house fans. It’s a must read, if not for the lyrical prose or the intriguing main character, then at least for the creepy subtleness of the horror in The Mourning House.

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