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Orson Scott Card – Homebody Book Review

I bought a house recently and never would I have thought that an audiobook of a novel written in 1998 about a house haunting would strike so true.

I didn’t read anything about the book prior to its purchase and as I went along, the story unfolded as a sweet, sometimes uplifting, sometimes saddening, tale of becoming.

This romantic ghost story relies on a familiar horror backbone: a stranger with a tragic past moves into an old house that also has a tragic past, and is forced to reckon with the supernatural forces that dwell there. In Homebody, the stranger is an itinerant architect-builder who makes a lonely living by purchasing fixer-uppers, renovating them, and selling them. The house he buys in Greensboro, North Carolina, (where Orson Scott Card lives, in real life) has three mysteries attached to it: a tunnel in the basement, an attractive female squatter who refuses to leave, and a trio of weird doomsayers who live next door.

The re-modeling story is pretty interesting. Seeing past the decaying facade, Don Lark sees potential. Sees strong beams, strong walls and a good staircase. He is kind and even though he has suffered in the past when his alchoolic and drug-abusing ex-wife crashed her car with their child inside, he is willing to try again.

He had a short stint with the real-estate agent who sold him the house (which ended up costing him about $20,000 in lawyer fees and restitution costs to avoid a lawsuit) but then he emerges stronger at the end and more set in not getting involved with anyone.

Sylvia Delaney is the house-squatter and you kinda know that there’s something odd with her. She’s filthy but somehow clean. She comes and goes out of the house as she pleases. She doesn’t seem to eat any of the food that Don kindly buys for her. And – she uses every trick in the book so that she can continue squatting in the house.

As Don is single-handedly fixing up the house, his relationship with Sylvie deepens and so they kinda fall in love. More like “stay-out-of-my-way” love at the beginning but then it develops into kinship and trust. Don – the caring kind – takes to Sylvia and sees her more as a daughter even though she’s older than he is.

And as they get to know each other better and the house starts revealing its secrets, so does Sylivia – she confesses to the murder of her roommate 10 years ago.

When they go look for the body in the hidden prohibition-era tunnel under the house – the mystery is finally revealed: It wasn’t Sylvie who was a murderer, it was her housemate who strangled her to death. Sylvie was dead, a ghost who was trapped in the house due to her remorse, her guilt and her loss.

So this is a gothic tale of love, murder and loss – all with a Ghost!

The ending was a bit crappy and that’s the reason why I give it 3/5 stars. Don wants to avenge Sylvie’s death by finding where Lissie is and drawing her in the house to do what.. tell her off? Lissie, now going by Sylvie – as she stole her identity – comes to the house by car to shoot Don (instead of denying everything). She doesn’t tell anyone where she’s going and by some weird Juju magic that the weird lady next door explains, the Ghost Sylvie is able to steal Lissie’s body and throw Lissie’s soul out as it was divided by living as Sylvie for the last ten years or so.

Hmm, doubtful glance. So if Lissie would have stolen somebody elses’ identity or had gotten married none of the plot would have worked.

Weird.

Either way I really liked the book. Light, easy to listen to and quite gripping.